Indecent treatment, bestiality, rape: our sickening backlog
CHILD sex offences are dominating Fraser Coast District Court lists in a worrying trend.
Accused predators make up a third of the Maryborough circuit backlog, which includes those awaiting sentencing and trial.
Among them is a high-profile Maryborough businessesman charged with indecent treatment, bestiality and rape.
Another man faces more than 50 charges of indecent treatment. The majority of thise offences are alleged to have been committed against a child with an impairment.
Another is charged with using the internet to procure a child and then going to meet them.
The Hervey Bay backlog also includes a significant amount child offences, but the percentage is lower than Maryborough with the list instead dominated by acts of violence.
But unlike violent offenders who can often walk out of court on parole or suspended sentences, people guilty of crimes against children are nearly always jailed.
This includes first time offenders.
Maryborough-based defence lawyer Travis George said the almost inevitable imprisonment encouraged people to fight charges.
"You can plead guilty to an assault and be released on parole immediately, but that's not open in most child sex matters," Mr George said.
"The majority of child sex offences must be dealt with in the District Court, so there's no opportunity to resolve them quickly."
Late last year a Fraser Coast retiree was sent to jail for raping his granddaughter after a trial.
A man with no criminal history, Gregory Robert Halliday, was found guilty by a jury of touching a girl he barely knew and sent straight to prison.
Hervey Bay Detective David Guild said police were actively encouraging sexual abuse victims to speak up.
"Sexual abuse is a difficult subject for anybody but the more we promote it the better the chance victims and witnesses come forward," Sgt Det Guild said.
"I would expect that many child exploitation material and child sex offences are well defended and would make up a lot of the trials across the state."
Mr George said the public encouragement of sexual abuse victims to come forward has also encouraged fabrication.
"It's an easy matter to make a false allegation on and have the police act upon it," he said.
"Because these offences often occur behind closed doors, you often don't have forensic evident to exonerate someone."
In Maryborough District Court's first run of the year in January, a jury cleared a Fraser Coast man of rape charges against his step-daughter.
A Hervey Bay teenager was jailed last month for raping a four-year-old girl when he was 17.
Another teen, currently 18, is charged with possession of and producing child exploitation material.
A 58-year-old man was last year imprisoned for historic crimes on his stepdaughter.
Fraser Coast Law Society president Rebecca Pezzutti said the high number of local cases could be a reflection of a "larger catchment area" incorporating nearby towns.
"I think what you are seeing in relation to the large number of child sex offences being prosecuted in Hervey Bay and Maryborough, is part of a wider community awareness and response to child sexual abuse," Ms Pezzutti said.
"Greater police resourcing and victim support enables these offences to be prosecuted."