A new Bill designed to crackdown on child sexual predators will be introduced into State Parliament today.
The Criminal Law Amendment (Uncertain Dates) Bill 2019 seeks to remedy situations where uncertainties as to particular dates prevent a person being found guilty of a crime that is otherwise proved to have occurred.
Under existing legislation, the date on which an offence occurred needs to be established with sufficient certainty to enable an offender to be charged and successfully convicted. This becomes a problem where allegations of age-specific sexual offences span a victim’s birthday and where legislation was changed around the time of the allegations.
The proposed amendments will resolve technical impediments to convicting perpetrators for serious offences that currently prevent prosecution and conviction, with particular regard to historical sexual offences against children.
The amendments will also address the current anomaly of neither the Children’s Court nor the Magistrates or District Courts having jurisdiction where it is uncertain whether an accused was a child or adult at the time of the commission of an offence.
The Bill represents further improvements by the McGowan Labor Government in the wake of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
As stated by Attorney General John Quigley:
“While this Bill will have application across a range of matters where there is uncertainty of relevant dates, there is no doubt that it will facilitate the successful prosecution of child sexual abuse offences.
“It is often a feature of child sexual abuse cases, given the historical nature of the offending and tender age of the child, that it is difficult for the victim to recall specific dates of the abuse.
“Unfortunately, there have been cases in Western Australia where perpetrators have evaded conviction as it could not be conclusively established when the offending took place.
“In one case, a teenage accused committed sexual offences against a younger child over many years.
“Some charges were able to be commenced but a number of charges, alleging very serious sexual offences, could not be charged because the State could not determine whether the accused was over or under 18 years of age at the time those offences were committed.
“This represents a serious miscarriage of justice and an example of the sorts of issues that this legislation will address.
“The provisions proposed in this Bill will improve the administration of justice, particularly for victims of child sexual abuse by ensuring perpetrators can be held accountable for their actions.”