The following Bills related to protecting children and young people are currently before Parliament or have recently passed Parliament.
Status - introduced in Parliament
Drug dependency can have a devastating impact on young people, their futures and their families, and can have negative impacts on the broader community.
The Government of South Australia has introduced new laws into Parliament to help young people and their families address drug dependency through specialised treatment.
The Controlled Substances (Youth Treatment Orders) Amendment Bill 2018 recognises the importance of tackling substance abuse before children reach adulthood, and aims to offer parents an additional option when it is clear that the young person is unlikely to voluntarily engage in treatment and may be a danger to themselves or others.
Status - new laws commenced
All children and young people deserve to be safe, happy and healthy, and to be protected from abuse. When abuse does occur, our legal system must allow us to prosecute offenders and impose penalties that protect children from further harm.
This Bill addresses difficulties experienced in prosecuting offenders for criminal neglect of children, in particular due to the current definition of “serious harm” as it applies to children.
As children generally have a superior ability to heal from injury compared to adults, it is difficult to establish that the child has suffered “serious harm” under the current definition. “Serious harm” currently refers to harm that endangers, or is likely to endanger a person’s life, result in serious or lengthy physical or mental impairment, or serious disfigurement.
This Bill replaces the words “serious harm” with “harm” to better reflect the impact of injuries inflicted on children in instances of child abuse, cruelty and neglect.
Maximum sentences are also increased under the proposed Bill. A person convicted of neglect causing death to a child or vulnerable adult would face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment (currently 15 years). Conviction of neglect causing harm to a child or vulnerable adult would face a maximum sentence of 15 years imprisonment (currently 5 years for causing serious harm).
Whether the offender caused death or harm, the sentencing court will determine the appropriate sentence considering all the circumstances of the offence, victim and offender.
Status - new laws commenced
The Bill contained amendments to the Criminal Law Consolidation Act that aim to better protect children and young people under 17 years old from adult predators, by allowing police to target grooming behaviour in its early stages. The informal name for this legislation, Carly’s Law, refers to Carly Ryan who was 15 years old when she was murdered by a 50 year old man who lied to her about his age.
The Act supplements existing legislation covering online communication and grooming.
The amendments to the Act create two new offences.
- Maximum 5 years imprisonment for an adult who knowingly communicates with a child and lies about their age to make them appear younger or lies about their identity and meets or arranges to meet a child.
- Maximum 10 years imprisonment for an adult who knowingly communicates with a child and lies about their age to make them appear younger or lies about their identity with the intention of committing an offence against a child.
Limitation of Actions (Child Sexual Abuse) Amendment Bill 2018
Status - passed Parliament
The Limitation of Actions (Child Sexual Abuse) Amendment Bill 2018 will allow victims of child sexual abuse to seek compensation and access to justice regardless of how long ago their abuse occurred.
Under the current law (Limitations of Actions Act 1936) there is a 3-year time limit for a victim to launch civil legal action against their abuser or other people who may have contributed to their abuse. This means that survivors of child sexual abuse must start legal proceedings by their 21st birthday, unless an extension of time is granted by the court.
The change will remove this time limitation, bringing South Australia in line with other states and territories. It also addresses a key recommendation of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which found that time limits create significant barriers for survivors.
The Bill recognises the insidious nature and lasting impact of child sexual abuse, which means it can take a long time for survivors to report and discuss their experiences. When survivors do speak-up they often first need support services, such as counselling, rather than pursuing a court case.
By removing the time limit, victims and survivors can seek compensation and justice when they feel able to do so. If passed, the Bill will apply retrospectively, meaning there will be no time limit on old cases, as well as new ones.
The court will still be able to stop a legal action if the lapse of time means that a fair trial is not possible.
Status - passed Parliament
The National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse (Commonwealth Powers) Bill will enable the National Redress Scheme to be fully implemented in South Australia, and contribute to the consistent operation of the scheme around the country.
The laws will pave the way for local institutions to opt-in to the scheme, which provides recognition, a monetary payment and support to access counselling to people who experienced institutional child sexual abuse.
Sentencing (Release on Licence) Amendment Bill 2018
Status - passed in Parliament
The Sentencing (Release on Licence) Amendment Bill 2018 was introduced on Tuesday 29 May 2018, and passed Parliament on Thursday 21 June 2018.
The Bill responds to community concern about the release of child sex offenders into the community who had had previously been detained indefinitely.
The Bill restricts the availability of the ‘release on licence’ option where a person who has an indefinite sentence may apply to live in the community under strict supervision and conditions.
It also makes it harder for a person to have their indefinite detention ended – where they are discharged into the community without supervision.