Prison Push for Child Sex Abuse Lies Follows Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into Institutional Failures

By Matt Johnston, James Campbell
Herald Sun
November 14, 2013

[with video]

NEW laws to jail fiends who groom children to molest, and church leaders who cover it up, will be introduced next year.

The reforms follow Wednesday's tabling in State Parliament of a historic report on child abuse, which revealed police were investigating 135 new cases.

Tears flowed as victims stood in the rain to lend their voices in support of the report.

The report slammed leaders of churches and non-government organisations that failed vulnerable children during decades of "betrayal beyond comprehension".

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The report, following an 18-month inquiry into the handling of child abuse by religious and other non-government organisations, found "several thousand victims (were) criminally abused in non-government organisations", many of whom had been denied justice.

The Catholic Church came in for damning criticism.

Tears and applause greeted the release of a parliamentary report calling for laws to protect children. Picture: Tim Carrafa.

The report said it had "adopted a policy of cover-up" that included moving priests to other locations, where further abuse then occurred.

The report's recommendations include:

A NEW offence that can be laid against people who leave children at risk.

THE RIGHT for victims to be able to sue non-government organisations.

Fr Kevin O'Donnell was jailed for 39 months in 1995 for indecent assault against 11 victims. Acknowledged by Cardinal Pell to the inquiry as "one of the worst".

JAIL terms for church leaders who cover up abuse or fail to report it to police.

The new grooming laws could see people jailed even if no sexual offence takes place.

Premier Denis Napthine welcomed the report saying the Government would immediately "act to protect our children" by drafting new criminal laws.

The Government will consider the report's other recommendations, including whether to force non-government organisations, such as churches, to become incorporated and obtain liability insurance, allowing victims to sue.

Br Robert Best. Jailed for 14 years, a miminum of 11 years in 2011 after being found guilty of 20 counts of indecent assault and one count of buggery against 11 victims at St Alpius Primary School, Ballarat; St Leo's College, Box Hill; and St Joseph's Christian Brothers College, Geelong.

"I'm ashamed and embarrassed by the actions of the Catholic Church, or the lack of actions on these matters," said Dr Napthine, a Catholic.

Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews, also a Catholic, offered his full support for implementing law changes.

Several MPs on the Family and Community Development Committee wiped away tears.

Its chair, Liberal MP Georgie Crozier, said "heinous crimes" had occurred and thanked victims for coming forward.

Victims said the report offered a "glimmer of hope" for child protection after years of failures.

Religious groups including the Catholic and Anglican Churches, and the Salvation Army, supported the report's key recommendations and welcomed its release.

Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart said: "I fully acknowledge that leaders in the Church made terrible mistakes".

- with Michelle Ainsworth and Annika Smethurst

The report is released by the Victorian parliamentary inquiry into handling of child sex abuse by religious and other organisations. Parliamentary committee chair Georgie Crozier addresses the Legislative Council. Source: News Limited


1. Consider law changes to ensure anyone who fails to report a serious indictable offence involving child abuse will be guilty of an offence.

2. Consider creating a criminal offence relating to "child endangerment" in organisations, for when someone in authority consciously disregards a substantial risk that might endanger a child's life, health, welfare, morals, or emotional well-being.

3. Consider changing laws to create a criminal offence of grooming, even when sexual abuse has not necessarily occurred.

4. Consider requiring non-government

organisations that receive some government funding or assistance to be incorporated and adequately insured.

5. Work with the Australian Government to require religious and other non-government organisations that engage with children to adopt incorporated legal structures.

6. Consider amending Limitation of Actions laws to exclude criminal child abuse.

7. Consider amending Victims of Crime Assistance laws to specify that no time limits apply to applications for assistance.

8. Review the Wrongs Act and identify whether laws should change to ensure organisations are held accountable and have a legal duty to take reasonable care to prevent criminal child abuse.

9. Review the functions of the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal (VOCAT) to consider

its capacity to administer a specific scheme for victims of criminal child abuse.

10. Authorise an independent statutory body with relevant powers and resources to oversee and monitor the handling of allegations of child abuse by relevant government departments, religious and non-government organisations.

11. Review the current Education Department procedures for responding to allegations of all forms of criminal child abuse within all Victorian schools.

12. Clarify the requirements for religious organisations to ensure ministers of religion have a current Working with Children check, and monitor compliance.

13. Review contractual and funding arrangements with education and community service organisations that work with children to ensure they have a minimum standard for ensuring a child-safe environment.

14. Identify an effective approach for supporting peak bodies to build preventive capacity in sectors that interact with children.

15. Ensure non-government organisations have high quality advice about preventing criminal child abuse.








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