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Child sex offenders targeted in changes to federal criminal law

Criminal law practitioners are reminded of recent significant amendments to the Crimes Act 1914 and the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) by the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Sexual Crimes Against Children and Community Protection Measures) Act 2020.

Key features of the amendments include:

  • A presumption against bail for Commonwealth child sex offences that attract the highest maximum penalties, and all other Commonwealth child sex offences if the offender is a repeat child sex offender.
  • A mandatory minimum sentencing scheme to apply to the Commonwealth child sex offences that attract the highest maximum penalties, and all other Commonwealth child sex offences if the offender is a repeat child sex offender.
  • A presumption in favour of cumulative sentences for Commonwealth child sex offences.
  • Additional aggravating sentencing factors that apply when a court is sentencing for certain child sex offences, including considering the age and maturity of the victim and the number of people involved in the commission of the offence.
  • Make it an aggravating factor in sentencing if a federal offender used their standing in the community to assist in the commission of an offence.
  • When sentencing a Commonwealth child sex offender, the court must have regard to the objective of rehabilitating the person, including by considering whether to impose any conditions about rehabilitation and treatment and considering if the length of sentence is sufficient for the person to undertake a rehabilitation program while in custody.
  • Prevent children and other vulnerable witnesses from being cross-examined at committal proceedings.

The publications below may be of some assistance to QLS members when appearing on Commonwealth child sex offences.

  • CDPP Bail Guide and Commonwealth Child Sex Offences is published on the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions website under Publications > Other.
    This relates to the amendments on bail and includes a list of ‘child sexual abuse offence’ as defined (including Commonwealth offences and state/territory registrable offences). The document has a copyright notice.
  • Attorney-General’s Department information circular, New federal offender laws. This provides information on changes to the Crimes Act 1914 and Criminal Code (Cth)made by the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Sexual Crimes Against Children and Community Protection Measures) Act 2020. It is a summary of all aspects of the Act including sentencing, bail, new offences, parole and vulnerable witness protections.
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