Stop paedophiles walking free

Stop paedophiles walking free

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Jane Doe started this petition to Hon Premier Dan Andrews and Parliament of Victoria

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews claims to lead the most progressive state in Australia. The Premier is also quoted as saying that he believes and supports victims of childhood sexual abuse. If that is true, then as someone who has suffered childhood sexual abuse tried through the Victorian court system as an adult, I call on the Premier, on behalf of other victims and living survivors, to lead urgent law reform and to table a bill in the Parliament of Victoria to create specialist child abuse and family-violence tribunals with judicial powers in the State of Victoria.

It is well-established in the field of medicine and clinical psychology that many victims of childhood abuse do not have the requisite maturation to understand the events at the time of the offence against them. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse found many survivors may not be able to speak about the assault at all or not until decades after the abuse has occurred. Not only is such violence against children iniquitous, it typically has life-long negative consequences and overwhelmingly occurs in the absence of other witnesses, all of which make it difficult for victims and survivors of abuse to successfully prosecute the perpetrator to the criminal standard of proof.

In Pell v The Queen, the seven judges of the High Court of Australia ruled that they were able to assess the evidence before them rationally, in contrast to a jury of twelve fact-finding strangers who unanimously concluded that the accused was guilty of the rape of two children at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne. Their Honours ruled that the criminal burden of proof beyond reasonable doubt had not been met by the prosecution, and that the jury ought to have had doubts about the guilt of the accused due to the prosecution’s lack of challenging the opportunity witnesses. Two of the same opportunity witnesses who told the jury in sworn testimony that the clerical robes of the Archbishop could not be parted while being worn, which was incorrect in fact.

In addition to the High Court’s affirmation in Pell’s Case of the required standard of proof for all crimes, including childhood sexual assault cases, common misconceptions still exist in the community and professional circles regarding sexual assault and family violence, such as that perpetrators would not risk brazen offending against children when there are other adults close by, or at a time when they may suddenly be caught offending.

Perversely, the scenario where an offender might be caught or there are other people present in close proximity to the assault is what provides some offenders with a heightened sense of power. Seemingly implausible scenarios also serve to make any reports about the abuse sound fabricated or erroneous, especially after a long passage of time. Given the prevalence of the sexual abuse of children found by the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the low rate of successful prosecution in criminal courts of such cases, and the extremely high rate of harm done to victims and their families, including resulting suicide, mental illness and significant drug abuse, the State of Victoria must consider making the following changes:

To better prosecute and send a clear message to paedophiles and domestic abusers that their actions will not escape undetected and unpunished, The Parliament of Victoria should establish specialist child abuse and family violence judicial tribunals where adult victims have the choice of either:

1) That survivors have the opportunity to choose an inquisitorial Continental European-style legal system, where a judge acts an investigator of fact, but with the added feature of also working in conjunction with a jury comprised of X number of persons from a cross-section of the general public including some members who are proven sexual abuse/family violence survivors and trained professionals (depending on the nature of the case), willing to help the judge determine the facts of the case, with recourse to appeal to the current adversarial court system in Victoria if the victim is not satisfied with the result of the investigation by the presiding judge and Survivor’s Jury. Or;

2) Engaging in a specialist Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process, guided by professionals such as lawyers, ADR mediators, registered psychologists and social workers trained in sexual violence and family violence cases. The ADR tribunal would focus on fact-finding and truth and reconciliation, with recourse to an inquisitorial system or Victoria’s current adversarial court system if no mutually successful resolution between the parties can be reached. Or;

3)That in tribunals with judicial powers where the child is the alleged victim be conducted in a non-adversarial way and to be designed with expert advice  to minimize the risk as much as possible of causing any additional trauma to the child when giving evidence or dealing with police and the tribunal or adversarial court system.

4) Consult a wide range of victim/survivors, survivors’ advocacy groups and the general public in Victoria to establish a truth-centered model of adjudication/litigation for child sexual abuse and family violence.

Contrary to some commentary in the media, victims and survivors do not merely “want to be heard” or “to have their day in court”, they want the truth to be known publicly and for the perpetrator to be held accountable for their crimes. Above all, they do not want other children to be harmed, and they want the community to know who the child rapists and abusers are who live among us.

Survivors do a great service to Australia by speaking up and reporting child abuse and family violence. They should be thanked for reporting such serious and socially destructive crimes. In our current adversarial legal system, victims and survivors are the ones put on trial to re-live the trauma while too many perpetrators walk free.

Parliament of Victoria, lead the way with urgent law reform to stamp out sexual violence and family violence in the community.

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