Minister for Children
Mandatory Sentencing for Child Sex Offences
Wednesday 3 May 2017


QUESTION

Mr BROOKS question to MINISTER for HUMAN SERVICES, Mrs PETRUSMA [10.50 a.m.]

Can the minister please update the House on the Government’s progress in fulfilling the Hodgman Liberal Government’s election commitment to legislate for minimum mandatory sentences for those convicted of serious sexual offences against children?

ANSWER Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Braddon for his question and ongoing interest in this important area of law reform. Sexual offences against children are particular heinous and must be condemned in the strongest terms. It is imperative that sentences imposed by the courts in relation to this type of offence are proportionate with the gravity of the crime committed and reflect the strong condemnation felt by the Tasmanian community.

In October 2015, the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice asked the Sentencing Advisory Council to provide a report on the implementation of minimum mandatory sentencing for those who commit serious sexual offences against children. This included advice as to which offences should be captured within the scope of the mandatory sentencing provision and what those mandatory minimum sentences should be. In November last year the Sentencing Advisory Council released its report, outlining how such a scheme could be implemented. I am pleased to announce today that my colleague, the acting Attorney-General, will be tabling a bill that will put such a scheme into effect in Tasmania.

Hearings conducted by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse have brought to the public’s attention the harrowing details of child sexual abuse. It is the duty of any responsible government to ensure such vulnerable victims can achieve a sense of justice. This scheme will help to achieve just that and is consistent with the Hodgman Liberal Government’s record of protecting vulnerable Tasmanians.

The introduction of a mandatory minimum scheme in Tasmania complements reforms this Government has already taken in this area. This includes making it a requirement to take into consideration in parole and remission decisions whether a sex offender in prison has undertaken treatment; also amendments to the Sentencing Act 1997 to include a list of aggravating factors that apply to sexual offences; and provide for the limitation of the use of an offender’s good character as a mitigating factor where that was of assistance to the offender in the commission of the offence. Other measures we are progressing are expanding the definition of ‘rape’ to bring it more into line with community standards and to properly reflect the significance of serious sexual assaults, as well as removing the limitations period for victims of child sexual abuse to seek damages.

Children are the most vulnerable in our society and this Government will do everything it can to protect them against sexual predators. This Government has long held the position that increased sentences are needed for serious sexual offences against children. It is a commitment we made to the Tasmanian people and we are delivering on it.