New laws, brought in by the Queensland Parliament require adults to report to a police officer any information they gain which causes the adult to reasonably believe or should cause the person to reasonably believe that a child sexual offence is being or has been committed against a child by another adult. The report must be made to a police officer as soon as reasonably practicable, unless they have a “reasonable excuse”.
The new failure to report laws apply to any adult who receives information (after July 5, 2021) that leads them to believe a child sexual offence has been committed. If convicted, a person is liable to a maximum penalty of three years imprisonment.
A child is defined by the legislation to mean a person under 16 years of age or a person under 18 years of age with an impairment of mind. An impairment of the mind is defined in the Queensland Criminal code as meaning an intellectual, psychiatric, cognitive or neurological impairment or a combination of these.
A child sexual offence includes offences committed against a child of a sexual nature including:-
- Indecent treatment of a child;
- Carnal knowledge with or of a child;
- Grooming a child;
- Making child exploitation material;
- Maintaining a sexual relationship with a child.
A reasonable excuse for not reporting sexual abuse against a child is not exhaustively defined in the legislation. It may include if:-
- The information has already been reported the to an appropriate authority such as Child Safety Queensland or the Queensland Police, or you know another person will report it;
- You received information about the victim who is now an adult, and you reasonably believe they do not want to reveal it to the police;
- You believe reporting the offence would endanger you or another person (other than the alleged offender).
A person does not need to report an offence to the police if it has already been reported to an appropriate authority, such as Child Safety Services or the Queensland Police.
Under previous laws, some professions such as teachers and doctors were legally obligated to report suspected abuse. The new laws specifically target information about a sexual offence against a child that has been gained during, or in connection with, a religious confession but are not intended to override confidential disclosures made to legal representatives known as legal professional privilege.
An adult who in good faith discloses information to a police officer that a child sexual offence is being or has been committed against a child by another adult is not liable civilly, criminally or under an administrative process for making the disclosure.
The Queensland Government has provided the following examples to help guide when information must be reported to the police.
You are at a barbecue with family members and friends. Your 14-year-old niece tells you that earlier in the afternoon an 18-year-old at the party took her into a bedroom and got her to pose for a nude photograph.
What should you do?
You must report this information to the police.
The 18-year-old may have committed an offence of making child exploitation material or indecently treating the child. Failure to report it may be an offence.
Your adult partner confides in you they were sexually abused by a neighbour when they were 5. Your partner tells you they do not want to make a complaint to police.
What should you do?
As your partner is now an adult and you reasonably believe they do not want you to reveal the information to police, you do not have to report the child sexual offence to police—you have a reasonable excuse.