The rights of victims of crime and community safety is a key priority for the Hodgman majority Liberal Government.
That is why we will be amending section 194K of Tasmania’s Evidence Act 2001 to provide victims of sexual assault the right to speak out publicly.
The Act currently prohibits the identification of complainants in sexual offence proceedings without a court order, including when the person is an adult at the time of publication and consents to being identified.
Legislation will be drafted to include provisions that provide for publication to occur where, prior to publication, the victim:
- has authorised the publication in writing;
- is at least 18 years of age at the time of publication;
- was not coerced into agreeing to the publication; and
- does not have a mental impairment that would make them incapable of reasonable judgment in respect of the publication.
There will also be safeguards to ensure there are appropriate protections of victims who do not wish to be identified and clarify the obligations of those publishing. We will also include an offence for breach of the publication prohibition.
It takes immense courage for survivors of sexual crimes to speak about their experience, and the Hodgman majority Liberal Government recognises that some members of the community have expressed concerns that section 194K of the Evidence Act 2001 may not currently strike the right balance and is too onerous. We believe what is being proposed is the most balanced approach to reform and more consistent with exemption provisions in most jurisdictions.
Additionally, the Government has given very careful consideration to the concerns raised in the community about the language used in Tasmania’s Criminal Code to describe sexual crimes, particularly those involving young people.
The naming of crimes that do not clearly identify the true nature of offending has been rightly criticised by victims and victim advocacy groups as contributing to a feeling by victims that their experience and trauma is being minimised or overlooked by the justice system.
Therefore, the Government will also draft legislation to update the language used in the crime of ‘maintaining a sexual relationship with a young person’ in the Criminal Code.
Both legislative changes will be released for consultation before the end of this year so that they can be introduced to Parliament in the new year.
Our Government has a strong record when it comes to supporting victims of crime. In 2015, we legislated for a victim’s representative on the Tasmanian Parole Board and, more recently, we passed legislation for an additional member with policing experience to provide further insight when it comes to Parole Board decisions. Significantly, we have also produced significant nation leading law reform for survivors of child sexual abuse as a result of our response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse.