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New laws to prioritise welfare of child sex abuse victims in making bail decisions

A bill has passed through Western Australia’s (WA) Parliament that will seek to ensure child victims of alleged sexual offences are kept front of mind in the consideration of bail decisions. 

user iconJess Feyder 05 September 2022 The Bar
New laws to prioritise welfare of child sex abuse victims in making bail decisions
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The Bail Amendment Bill 2022 makes it mandatory that children of alleged sexual offences are prioritised in bail decisions made for alleged perpetrators.

Concerns have been raised consistently in the media about the release of alleged child sex offenders on bail. Cases have highlighted issues around the risk posed to children, the community and the impact on victims.

Before the introduction of these laws, considerations were primarily given to factors pertaining to the accused, such as their criminal history, likelihood of absconding, number of charges, seriousness of offences and likelihood of breaches. 

 
 

“We routinely see alleged child sex offenders being granted bail, including offenders with serious charges and who have a history of offending,” Bravehearts Foundation said in a statement. 

“Alarmingly too often breaches of bail conditions for sex offender are being reported.” 

The important reforms have arisen from a commitment by the Attorney-General of Western Australia, the Honourable John Quigley, to examine the operation of the Bail Act 1982 (WA) and identify ways to better respond to bail applications for adults that are accused of sexual offences against children.

The new laws:

  • Allow bail decisions to be deferred for up to 30 days to allow the decision-maker to consider what bail conditions should be imposed to enhance the protection of a child victim;
  • Require a decision-maker to regard the conduct of the accused person towards any victim of an offence, or the victim’s family members;
  • Require a decision-maker to make additional considerations about the potential effect of the release of an accused on the safety and welfare of a child victim;
  • Require a prosecutor to inform a decision-maker of any safety or welfare concerns expressed by the child victim in relation to the potential release of an accused on bail; 
  • Expand the list of serious offences under Schedule 2 of the Bail Act 1982 to include sexual offences against children, and several other offences in the WA and Commonwealth statute books.
A-G Quigley stated that the bail release of alleged abusers could have a traumatic effect on victims, particularly when the victim is a child.

“It is important that our justice system is equipped to mitigate this trauma wherever possible,” he said.

“These reforms seek to go as far as possible to ensure the vulnerability of child complainants of sexual abuse remain front and centre at each step of the bail decision making process.

“As lawmakers, we have crafted the laws in such a way so as to ensure the right balance is struck between elevating the voices and concerns of child victims of sexual abuse without undermining the precepts of our justice system.”