Under laws which were voted through the Upper House last night, priests could face up to 21 years’ jail if they don’t report child physical and sexual abuse allegations.
Under laws which were voted through the Upper House last night, priests could face up to 21 years’ jail if they don’t report child physical and sexual abuse allegations.

Priests obliged to report child abuse

LAWS forcing priests to report child sexual abuse, including when heard during confession, have passed Tasmanian Parliament.

The Liberal-introduced Bill was voted through the Upper House last night, a day after similar laws passed in Victoria.

Under the laws, priests could face up to 21 years' jail if they don't report child physical and sexual abuse allegations.

"There is no excuse for failure to report the horrific abuse of children, least of all for institutions who have been named by the Royal Commission as failing to prevent child abuse in the past," Attorney-General Elise Archer said in a statement.

Elise Archer. Picture: RICHARD JUPE
Elise Archer. Picture: RICHARD JUPE

Lifting the seal of confession was one of more than 400 recommendations made in 2018 by the Royal Commission into Institutionalised Child Sex Abuse.

The laws have been opposed by Hobart Catholic Archbishop Julian Porteous, who argues they don't strengthen protections for children.

Archbishop Julian Porteous. Picture: SAM ROSEWARNE.
Archbishop Julian Porteous. Picture: SAM ROSEWARNE.

"It will have the opposite effect, as offenders will be less likely to come forward to confess serious sins for fear of being reported," he said.

"This will deny priests the opportunity to encourage offenders to report themselves to police."

Any person who fails to report child abuse if they believe it occurred, and who doesn't have a reasonable reason to not tell police, could also face charges under the new laws.

Clergy are also subject to mandatory reporting laws in South Australia and the Northern Territory, while Western Australia has announced plans to introduce the same measure.

Teachers, police and medical practitioners are already legally required to report child physical and sexual abuse allegations.

AAP


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