Queensland has strengthened its child protection regime by introducing new provisions whereby it is an offence for any adult to fail to disclose information relating to a sexual offence committed against a child.
What offence has been introduced?
From 5 July 2021, a new section was inserted into the Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld) that has significant implications for all adults in Queensland, especially teachers, teacher aides and school principals who frequently deal with child-related issues.
If an adult gains information that causes them to believe, on reasonable grounds, that a child sexual offence is being committed, the adult must disclose the information to a police officer as soon as possible. This also applies if the adult should reasonably believe that the offence is being committed.
What must be reported?
A child sexual offence is an offence of a sexual nature committed against a child. It includes indecent treatment of a child, carnal knowledge with or of a child, rape, incest, grooming a child, making child exploitation material, and maintaining a sexual relationship with a child.
Reporting is required if the child is (or was) under 16 years of age at the time of the offence, or if the child has an impairment of the mind.
Who needs to report?
The new failure to report offence applies to anyone over 18 years of age. This is especially important for teachers and school principals who regularly manage child-related information and issues.
What happens if you fail to report?
The maximum penalty for failing to report a belief of a child sexual offence is 3 years’ imprisonment.
What should you do if the offence occurred in the past?
If the information is received after 5 July 2021, the new reporting requirements apply even if the alleged offence occurred in the past.
However, the information does not need to be disclosed under the new requirements if the information was received before 5 July 2021. Reporting is also not required if the adult has a reasonable excuse, for example, if the child is now over 18 and the adult reasonably believes that they would not want the information to be disclosed to a police officer.