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  • Writer's pictureSam Kuhn


In Queensland, the laws in place to protect children from the risk of sexual abuse have been strengthened.

As of 5th July 2021, the following now applies:

• all adults must report sexual offending against children to the police unless they have a reasonable excuse

• adults in an institutional setting (e.g., a school, church or sporting club) must protect children from the risk of a sexual offence being committed against them.

In the Criminal Code, the laws are listed officially as follows:

(1) Section 229BB Failure to protect child from child sexual offence; and

(2) Section 229BC Failure to report belief of child sexual offence committed in relation to child

What does it take to commit the failure to protect offence?

To commit the offence of failure to protect – the accused, having power or responsibility to reduce or remove risks, must have had (and withheld) knowledge that the alleged offender will commit a child sex offence.

In this case, the accused would be what is called an ‘accountable person’- someone who is associated with a child service institution (childcare, children’s education, etc.). The associated person could be an owner, manager, employee, or volunteer of the given institution.

Further, the child in question must be:

• under the care, supervision or control of an institution; and

• the child is either—

(i) under 16 years; or

(ii) a person with an impairment of the mind.

What is the maximum penalty for ‘failure to protect’?

The maximum penalty is 5 years imprisonment.

What does it take to commit the failure to report offence?

To commit the offence of failure to report – the accused, an adult who has information governing the belief of a child sex offence that has occurred or will occur, failed to disclose crucial information to a police officer as soon as reasonably practicable. (Criminal Code 1899 - Section 229BC)

The child in question is or was (at the relevant time):

(i) under 16 years; or

(ii) a person with an impairment of the mind.

What is the maximum penalty for ‘failure to report’?

If there is no reasonable excuse to withhold the information, the accused could be found guilty of the offence. If found guilty, this could lead to a maximum of 3 years imprisonment.

What is a ‘reasonable excuse’ to not report a child sex offence?

A few examples of what is considered to be a ‘reasonable excuse’, could be:

• that the accused believes (on solid grounds) that the information had already been supplied; • the accused believed to have already reported the information; or • the accused becomes known to the sexual offence at the time the child becomes an adult, where the accused believes it is no longer a legal requirement to inform the police.

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