House debates

Tuesday, 13 February 2024


Crimes Amendment (Strengthening the Criminal Justice Response to Sexual Violence) Bill 2024; Second Reading

4:48 pm

Photo of Paul FletcherPaul Fletcher (Bradfield, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Government Services and the Digital Economy) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the Crimes Amendment (Strengthening the Criminal Justice Response to Sexual Violence) Bill 2024. This bill amends the Crimes Act to modify rules of evidence and procedure that apply in sexual offences under Commonwealth law and picks up on exposure draft legislation originally developed by the coalition towards the end of the 46th Parliament. It is in the same vein as measures which were first introduced by the Howard government in 2001 to protect children in proceedings for sexual offences and is similar to legislation supported by the coalition in 2013. The bill makes technical and procedural changes to the way in which prosecutions are conducted in the Commonwealth jurisdiction. The bill does not deal with prosecutions under state and territory laws, which govern the majority of cases in which sexual offences come before a court in Australia.

At a high level, the bill does four main things. First, it expands the range of offences to which special rules for dealing with sexual offences apply. The expanded list includes offences such as female genital mutilation, intimate image abuse, sexual servitude, crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture and drug offences involving children.

Secondly, the bill changes rules of admissibility in relation to sexual reputation and sexual experience. The bill makes inadmissible the experience of a child or vulnerable adult with respect to sexual activities unless a court grants leave and it meets specific criteria. The bill also makes inadmissible evidence of a child's or vulnerable adult's reputation in respect of sexual activities.

The third change in the bill is to make procedural orders, allowing a court to make orders allowing a person's evidence about an alleged sexual offence to be recorded at a special evidence recording hearing. It also requires evidence given by a child, vulnerable adult or special witness to be recorded if the evidence is given outside such a hearing.

Fourthly, the bill makes clear that the current restriction on publishing material that identifies a person as a child witness, child complainant or vulnerable adult complainant does not apply to self-identifying material. It also streamlines requirements allowing third parties, such as media entities, to identify a vulnerable person with their informed consent.

Initial feedback from stakeholders is that these measures are broadly in line with criminal procedure provisions in the various state and territory jurisdictions. However, the bill is technical in nature, and a close analysis is warranted, informed by the expertise of the legal profession. It is highly desirable that the parliament should, before arriving at a final position, allow the legal profession and other stakeholders to provide input through a parliamentary committee process so as to allow the parliament to be satisfied that the bill is well adapted to the problems it seeks to address. I thank the House.

Debate adjourned.


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