Report Finds Majority of Child Sex Offenders Escape Conviction
THE appalling state of justice for our children has been revealed by a damning report that shows 95 per cent of child
sex offenders escape conviction.
The Australian Law Reform Commission has found children are no safer than they were 10 years ago, with the number needing
protection more than tripling - from 91,734 to 309,517 - in the past decade.
And the percentage of children aged between 10 and 17 who come into contact with the police has soared from about 4 per
cent to an estimated 15 to 17 per cent.
The situation has become so bad that children and their families are often discouraged from pursuing cases of abuse
because the chances of a conviction are so poor.
Blaming the failure on key recommendations by the commission being "ignored", report author James McDougall summed up
the frustration, saying: "We have let the children down."
While part of the rise in numbers of children needing protection is due to new mandatory reporting rules, parents grappling
with violence and drug abuse were mainly to blame, the report said.
Following up on the ALRC's landmark 1997 study into children in the legal process, the new report found that little has
changed because recommendations, including a national Children's Commissioner to represent youngsters' interests, have
largely been brushed aside by the Federal Government.
And despite the increased recognition of child sexual abuse, many children still do not report it for years, if at all.
National Children and Youth Law Centre director Mr McDougall said: "We have let them down in situations where they are
at risk in a range of circumstances.
"Child protection is just one of those areas. We should be creating an environment where our children are better off
Another of the report's authors, Dr Judy Cashmore, an academic specialising in child protection and welfare, said only
between 5 and 10 per cent of cases that get to court are finalised, with only about half of the accused offenders being convicted.
But she said a key recommendation of the ALRC's previous report, which was to allow the whole of a child's evidence to
be taken before trial and videotaped for presentation in court, had only been taken up in Western Australia.
The number of children being looked after in care has also more than doubled, from 13,979 to 28,441.
Those in care suffered a lack of stability and emotional security, as well as poor
educational performance, said the report.
Aboriginal children were still marginalised with poor health, education and other
rights lagging far behind other children.
Mr McDougall said the Rudd Government appeared more willing to address the problems
than the previous government.
The Daily Telegraph (3-10-2008)