Strengthened child sexual offence reporting and protection laws come into effect on Monday, 5 July 2021.
These laws, which emerged from the 'Child Abuse Royal Commission' will apply to schools, churches, and sporting clubs.
There are two relevant changes to the law which affect sport and create new criminal offences.
A new offence has been created when adults in organisations such as sporting clubs, schools, churches and childcare centres fail to act on knowledge of a significant risk to a child participating in their organisation being subjected to a sexual offence.
Acting to protect the child at risk means that if the responsible adult has the power or responsibility to remove that risk, they must do so. For example, if an adult holding a position that requires them to exercise a duty of care towards a child has knowledge of a risk of a sexual offence being committed upon a child, failure to act can result in a maximum jail term of five years.
In the context of a sporting club or organisation, this offence applies to board members, employees and volunteers.
The other new offence relates to failing to make a report to police. This section is wide-ranging in that it covers adults who believe, on reasonable grounds, or even should have believed, that a child sexual offence is either being committed against a child or has previously been committed. If that person fails to make a police report immediately after becoming aware (or being deemed to have been expected to know by virtue of their position), up to three years imprisonment applies.
A defence does exist to this provision however, which is contained in the definition of 'reasonable excuse'.
Reasonable excuses include:
Anyone who in "good faith" makes a disclosure to police is not liable in any way for having done so, regardless of its accuracy.
What is required is a level of diligence and attention to ensure compliance with these obligations. Obviously ensuring persons have 'blue cards' is the starting point.
It is also suggested that there should be a set agenda item for all management committee meetings dealing with these new requirements. This will ensure that they are top of mind for the association and all participants.
I believe the following is the basis for developing a positive child protection culture in your club or organisation are:
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