Child abuse, neglect and the legal system

The latest material added to the Australian Institute of Family Studies library database is displayed, up to a maximum of 30 items. Where available online, a link to the document is provided. Many items can be borrowed from the Institute's library via the Interlibrary loan system.

See more resources on Child abuse, neglect and the legal system in the AIFS library catalogue

Protecting children online: an overview of recent developments in legal frameworks and policies

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
Paris : OECD, 2020.
"The digital environment presents a wide range of benefits to children, whilst also exposing them to various risks, including cyberbullying, harmful content and inappropriate contact with strangers. This report provides an overview of the legal and policy actions that governments, international organisations and other stakeholders have taken to ensure a safe and beneficial digital environment for children. It considers actions taken to keep pace with technological developments, to ensure children can realise the benefits of the digital environment, and to respond to the changing digital risk landscape. The report also informed the revision of the 2012 OECD Recommendation of the Council on the Protection of Children Online, which aims to bring it into line with current and anticipated future needs of children in the digital environment."--Publisher abstract.

First interim report of the Joint Select Committee on Implementation of the National Redress Scheme April 2020

Smith D
Canberra : Commonwealth of Australia, 2020.
On the 1 July 2018, the Government launched a National Redress Scheme for the survivors of institutional child sexual abuse in Australia, one of the key recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. A Committee was also appointed to evaluate the implementation of the scheme. This report presents the Committee's findings to date and their interim recommendations. It highlights how the establishment of the scheme has made a symbolic and practical contribution to the pursuit of justice for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse. However, much more needs to be done to improve the experience of survivors when seeking redress through the scheme, such as by removing the requirement for a Statutory Declaration to accompany each application. The most pressing factor facing the scheme is the non-participation of some institutions, and actions must be taken to investigate this before the deadline arrives.

Investigating the introduction of the alcohol minimum unit price in the Northern Territory: final report

Coomber K, Miller P, Taylor N, Livingston M, Smith J, Buykx P, Clifford R, Scott D, Clifford S, Chikritzhs T, Nambiar D and Moayeri F
Darwin, N.T. : Dept. of Health, 2020.
The Northern Territory has introduced a range of reforms in 2017 and 2018 to address the high burden of harm from alcohol. This report evaluates one of the reforms: the introduction a minimum price for units of alcohol to help combat the availability of low-cost, high alcohol content beverages. The Northern Territory Liquor Act 1978 was amended to set a minimum price of $1.30 per standard drink and to prohibit sale at lower prices. This report presents the first evaluation of this initiative. The evaluation finds that the reform has had no negative impact on liquor licence numbers or tourist numbers or expenditure, and instead is associated with significant declines in total alcohol sales per capita, alcohol-related assaults and traffic crashes, alcohol-related ambulance call outs and hospital presentations, Sobering Up Shelter admissions and protective custody episodes, and the number of child protection notifications, protection orders, and out of home care cases. Regional differences are also discussed.

The internet: investigation report

Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (Great Britain)
London : Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, 2020.
This report looks into online-facilitated child sexual abuse in the United Kingdom, including its nature and extent, the experiences of victims and survivors, and the adequacy of the response of government, law enforcement and the internet industry. It focuses on three types of offending: indecent images of children offences; the grooming of a child; and live streaming of child sexual abuse. This study is part of the broader Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in institutions in England and Wales. The report discusses detection and prevention, age verification, and education and awareness, and makes recommendations for reform. Despite improvements in the response of law enforcement, industry and government over the last five years, there has been an explosion in online-facilitated child sexual abuse and intervention and prevention efforts are struggling to keep pace.

Child protection Australia 2018-19

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
Canberra, ACT : Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2020.
This report provides statistics on child protection services in Australia for the 2018/2019 period. It provides data on child protection notifications, investigations and substantiations, children on care and protection orders, characteristics of children in out-of-home care, kinship care and foster care households, permanency and reunification, and intensive family support services. Statistics are provided by state and territory, with comparisons with previous years where appropriate, and with statistics for Indigenous children. In 2018-19, about 170,200 children were in contact with child protection services. Though the number of children receiving child protection services rose by about 12% over the last four years, the rate has remained stable at around 30 per 1,000 children. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were 8 times as likely as non-Indigenous children to have received child protection services, and children from geographically remote areas were also over-represented. Over 3,700 children were reunified with family during 2018-19. A companion data visualisation report, 'Child protection Australia: children in the child protection system', is also available.

Getting the National Redress Scheme right - an overdue step towards justice: Australian Government response to the Joint Select Committee on oversight of the implementation of redress related recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse report

Australia, Australia. Parliament. Joint Select Committee on Oversight of the Implementation of Redress Related Recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
Canberra, A.C.T. : Australian Government, 2020.
In July 2018, the Australian Government launched a National Redress Scheme for the survivors of institutional child sexual abuse in Australia, one of the key recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. In the following year, the Australian Government established an inquiry to assess the initial implementation of this scheme and recommend any legislative and policy changes for improvement. The inquiry found that the redress scheme is at serious risk of not delivering on its objective of providing justice to survivors, with only a small number of applications received, few redress payments made, and some institutions refusing to join the scheme. In this document, the Australian Government thanks everyone who participated in the inquiry and outlines their response to each of the inquiry's recommendations. The Australian Government is committed to improving the scheme and will work with states and territories and non-government institutions to address issues and monitor performance.

Malicious reports of child maltreatment as coercive control : mothers and domestic and family violence.

Douglas H and Fell E
Journal of Family Violence 3 Jan 2020: Advance online publication
There is growing interest in both 'coercive control' and 'systems abuse' as forms of domestic and family violence. This article looks into malicious false reports of child maltreatment to child protective services, or threats to do so, by abusive partners or ex-partners as an example of both 'coercive control' and 'systems abuse'. It draws on interviews with 11 women, taken from a larger study of women who had experienced family violence. The findings highlight the nature and impact of malicious complaints as a form of abuse and the inadequacy of current legal mechanisms to address it. The article concludes with possible options to help prevent and respond to this abuse.

Mandatory reporting of child abuse and neglect

Child Family Community Australia, Australian Institute of Family Studies
Melbourne, Vic. : Australian Institute of Family Studies, 2020.
The legal requirement to report suspected cases of child abuse and neglect is known as mandatory reporting. This paper explains the different legal provisions across the states and territories of Australia, regarding who is legally mandated to report suspected child abuse, what type of concerns must be reported, and the benefits and challenges of mandatory reporting.

Annual report 2018-2019

Australia. Family Court
Canberra, ACT : Family Court of Australia, 2019.
This annual report presents information on the Family Court of Australia's activities and performance for the year 2018/2019. It includes financial statements and information on organisational structure and governance, and presents statistics on client groups, divorce applications, parenting and financial cases, clearance rates, time taken, appeals, representation of litigants, cases with a notice of child abuse or family violence, and Magellan cases. In this period, 2,395 applications for final orders were finalised, with 93% finalised within 12 months. Significant matters include the appointment of Will Alstergren as Chief Justice of both the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court, the appointment of a working group to harmonise the two sets court rules, the release of the Australian Law Reform Commission's review of the family law system, and new training for judges about family violence.

Annual progress report 2019: implementation of recommendations from the Final Report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

Australia, Australia. Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Final report.
Canberra, A.C.T. : Australian Government, 2019.
In 2017, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse presented its findings and recommendations. The Australian Government presented its official response in 2018, thanking the commissioners for their leadership and compassion over the 5 years of the inquiry and detailing the Australian Government's response to each of the 409 recommendations. The recommendations deal with redress, working with children checks report, criminal justice, and civil litigation. This report assesses the Australian Government's progress in implementing the recommendations relating to its jurisdiction - state and territory governments and other institutions will also prepare reports. Particular initiatives include the National Redress Scheme, the National Strategy to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse, the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations, the Commonwealth Child Safe Framework, the National Standards for Working with Children Checks, and the Combatting Child Sexual Exploitation Legislation Amendment Act 2019.

Homicide: consultation paper

New South Wales Sentencing Council
Sydney, NSW : New South Wales Sentencing Council, 2019.
The Attorney General has asked the New South Wales Sentencing Council to review sentencing for murder and manslaughter, in particular whether the standard non-parole period should be increased, the adequacy of current sentences, and cases in the context of domestic and family violence. To help with this work, the Council is inviting feedback from the general public. This paper explains how submissions can be made and provides information on the scope and context of the review. Issues discussed include public concern about sentence inadequacy, murder and manslaughter offences, maximum penalties and non-parole periods, life sentences, sentencing principles, special provisions when the victim is a police officer, factors relevant to the objective seriousness of an offence, mitigating and aggravating factors in cases involving domestic violence, child homicide and infanticide, child abuse and neglect, options for reform, and homicide offences and sentencing in other Australian jurisdictions.

Domestic relationship evidence in Queensland : an analysis of a misunderstood provision.

Campbell R
University of New South Wales Law Journal v. 42 no. 2 2019:
Evidence of the history of a domestic relationship between an accused person and their victim can have significant consequences when admitted at trial. In Queensland, the Evidence Act was reformed in 1998, with a new section 132B stating that evidence of the history of the domestic relationship - defined as an intimate personal relationship, a family relationship or an informal care relationship - is admissible in evidence in criminal proceedings for murder, manslaughter and assault. This article examines the effect of section 132B on the admission of relationship evidence into criminal proceedings in Queensland, including its intended purpose and scope, the policy justifications for admitting relationship evidence, the law in other Australian states, and how section 132B has been applied in recent cases. The article focuses particularly in cases where a victim of domestic violence retaliates against their abuser, cases where a perpetrator of domestic violence finally goes further than usual by seriously injuring or killing their partner, and cases of child abuse in the family. The article contends that relationship evidence in Queensland is far from clear and requires urgent reform.

Financial redress for survivors of historical child abuse in care: public consultation : a summary version

Scotland. Scottish Executive
Edinburgh : Scottish Government, 2019.
The Scottish Government is seeking views on the design of a statutory financial redress scheme as part of a package of wider reparations for survivors of historical child abuse in care. The findings will help shape the legislation which will be introduced to the Scottish Parliament during 2020. This consultation paper invites public participation and provides questions for consideration. An earlier consultation from 2017 highlighted the potential provision of financial redress and forms the starting point for this new consultation. It raises detailed questions about scheme design as well as wider issues about how those responsible should contribute to the scheme, the establishment of a public body to administer the scheme, and the potential alignment of financial redress with other elements of a reparation package for survivors of historical abuse in care. This is a plain language summary version of the more detailed consultation paper.

Pre-legislative public consultation on financial redress for historical child abuse in care

Scotland. Scottish Executive
Edinburgh : Scottish Government, 2019.
The Scottish Government is seeking views on the design of a statutory financial redress scheme as part of a package of wider reparations for survivors of historical child abuse in care. The findings will help shape the legislation which will be introduced to the Scottish Parliament during 2020. This consultation paper invites public participation and provides questions for consideration. An earlier consultation from 2017 highlighted the potential provision of financial redress and forms the starting point for this new consultation. It raises detailed questions about scheme design as well as wider issues about how those responsible should contribute to the scheme, the establishment of a public body to administer the scheme, and the potential alignment of financial redress with other elements of a reparation package for survivors of historical abuse in care. A summary version in plain language has also been released.

Accountability and reparations: investigation report

Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (Great Britain)
London : Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, 2019.
As part of the work of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, this report examines the extent to which the systems of civil justice, criminal compensation and support services provide effective accountability and reparations to victims and survivors of child sexual abuse in England and Wales. It draws on case studies, public seminars, feedback from issues papers, and evidence from witnesses. Accountability and reparations for child sexual abuse takes many different forms, including punishing offenders, holding institutions to account, acknowledging abuse and providing apologies, explanations and assurances of non-recurrence, redress and financial compensation, and support. Though none of the systems under examination in this investigation is designed to deliver all of these objectives, those systems could be improved so that they become more effective at delivering accountability and reparations for victims and survivors. Though some recommendations are made in this report, others issues are identified for further investigation in the next round of public hearings.

Definitions of child abuse and neglect

Child Welfare Information Gateway (U.S.), United States. Children's Bureau
Washington, DC : U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children's Bureau, 2019.
This document sets out how child abuse and neglect are defined across the various jurisdictions of the United States. It summarises federal, state, and U.S. territory laws that define the conduct, acts, and omissions that constitute child abuse or neglect that must be reported to child protective agencies, as well as standards for reporting, persons responsible for the child, and exceptions. The types of maltreatment defined include physical abuse, neglect, emotional abuse, and sexual abuse. Abandonment and parental substance use also included in some States. At the Federal level, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) has defined child abuse and neglect as "any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caregiver that results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse, or exploitation, or an act or failure to act that presents an imminent risk of serious harm".

Provincial and territorial child protection legislation and policy 2018

Public Health Agency of Canada
Ottawa, ON : Public Health Agency of Canada, 2019.
In Canada, provincial and territorial governments are responsible for assisting children in need of protection. This document sets out the legislation, policies, and practices of each province and territory in the context of child protection. Tables are presented on key legislative, regulatory, and policy changes since 2012, as well as age of protection, grounds for intervention, duty to report, offence of the false reporting of information, interagency child abuse protocols, child advocacy centres, independent child advocate, and Indigenous heritage, culture and best interests. This document can be used as a reference tool to provide context for researchers and policymakers who are interpreting child protection data.

More, longer, tougher - or is it finally time for a different approach to the post-sentence management of sex offenders in Australia?

Bartels L, Walvisch J and Richards K
Criminal Law Journal v. 43 no. 1 2019: 41-57
Sex offenders invoke as strong a response from politicians and the community, and jurisdictions around the world have implemented a range of measures in an effort to 'do something'. This article reviews legislative developments across Australia since 2016, including the use of indefinite sentences, preventive detention, and sex offender registers. The article argues that such responses are unlikely to be effective in helping offenders reintegrate into communities or prevent re-offending and instead calls for more use of inclusive post-sentence management approaches. Three of these approaches are then detailed: Circles of Support and Accountability, Chaperone Programs, and Support and Awareness Groups.

Fourteen-year trends in the criminal justice response to child sexual abuse reports in New South Wales.

Cashmore J, Taylor A and Parkinson P
Child Maltreatment: Journal of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children 5 Jun 2019: Advance online publication
This article explores attrition rates in child sexual abuse cases in the justice system in New South Wales. It analyses police and court data from 2003 to 2016, comparing cases reported in childhood with those reported in later adulthood, and comparing cases involving young offenders with those with adult defendents. The findings reflect those of other studies, highlighting the high attrition rates of child sexual abuse cases. Only one in five cases proceeded beyond the investigation stage, and more likely in cases when the suspect was an adult and the report to police was made when the victim was an adult.

Getting the National Redress Scheme right: an overdue step towards justice

Hinch D
Canberra : Commonwealth of Australia, 2019.
On the 1 July 2018, the government launched a National Redress Scheme for the survivors of institutional child sexual abuse in Australia, one of the key recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. This report presents the findings and recommendations of a committee established to provide oversight of the implementation of this redress scheme. The findings relate to the scheme's early stages of operation and provide an opportunity to make legislative and policy changes to help improve its processes and implementation. The committee found that the redress scheme is at serious risk of not delivering on its objective of providing justice to survivors, with only a small number of applications received, few redress payments made, and some institutions refusing to join the scheme.

Mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse: a survey of the Victims and Survivors Forum

Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (Great Britain)
London : Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, 2019.
As part of its work, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in England in Wales is examining the adequacy of existing obligations to report child sexual abuse. To help inform this work, a survey was conducted with victims of child sexual abuse regarding their views on introducing mandatory reporting. This paper summarises the themes raised and includes quotes from respondents. Nearly all of the 130 respondents were in favour of introducing such laws, many stating that mandatory reporting could have led to something being done to stop the abuse or to the offender being brought to justice. However, several argued that it would discouraged them from disclosing abuse. The survey also asked about who such laws should apply to, funding, and professional training.

Child protection Australia 2017-18

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
Canberra, ACT : Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2019.
This report provides statistics on child protection services in Australia for the 2017/2018 period. It provides data on child protection notifications, investigations and substantiations, children on care and protection orders, characteristics of children in out-of-home care, kinship care and foster care households, and intensive family support services. Statistics are provided by state and territory, with comparisons with previous years where appropriate, and with statistics for Indigenous children. In 2017-18, about 159,000 children were in contact with child protection services: a rate of 28.7 per 1,000 children. Just over half of these children were the subject of an investigation only, and only 7% of children were involved in an investigation, care and protection order, and out-of-home care placement. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are over-represented in the child protection system, at 8 times the rate for non-Indigenous children. Children from very remote areas had the highest rates of substantiations, at 4 times that of children from major cities. Emotional abuse was the most common type of substantiated maltreatment.

Impact of social media and screen-use on young people's health: fourteenth report of Session 2017-19

Great Britain. Parliament. House of Commons. Science and Technology Committee
London : House of Commons, 2019.
In light of growing concerns, this British Inquiry was established to investigate whether the growing use of social media and screens by children and young people is healthy or harmful, and whether any new measures or controls are required. The inquiry drew on consultations with experts and the community as well as children and young people, and considers benefits and risk of harm, resources for schools and parents, and gaps in current regulation. This report presents the findings and recommendations of the inquiry, which is timely considering that the British Government is developing online safety legislation. The first recommendation is that the British Government should commission research into this issue urgently. The inquiry was hindered by the limited quantity and quality of evidence available, in particular on causation rather than association and which groups are at risk. Generally, though, the available evidence suggest that while social media was not the root cause of the risk it does help to facilitate and amplify it. This was particularly apparent in the case of the abuse of children online.

Cumulative harm in the child protection system : the Australian context.

Sheehan R
Child and Family Social Work v. 24 no. 4 Nov 2019: 421-429
This systematic review examines understandings of cumulative harm in Australia and effective child protection responses. In begins by investigating how cumulative harm to children is identified, assessed, and included within child protection legislation, policy, and practice, before considering what is known about effective responses and whether they are incorporated into practice.

Australian legal definitions: when is a child in need of protection?

Child Family Community Australia, Australian Institute of Family Studies
Melbourne, Vic. : Australian Institute of Family Studies, 2019.
This resource sheet sets out the legal definitions of child abuse and neglect in each Australian jurisdiction, including the point at which, and the circumstances in which, a state or territory is mandated to intervene to protect children. This resource sheet serves as a single reference guide for practitioners and researchers, and highlights the range of different ways in which states and territories define a child 'in need of protection' or 'at risk'.

The future of joint trials of sex offences after Hughes : resolving judicial fears and jurisdictional tensions with evidence-based decision-making.

Cossins A
Melbourne University Law Review v. 41 no. 3 2018: 1121-1159
The admissibility of a defendant's other criminal misconduct has long been controversial, over concerns it has a prejudicial effect on juries. The jurisdictions of Australia vary in how they have interpreted the test for admissibility of this type of evidence, with a particular split between the New South Wales and Victorian appellate courts regarding the admissibility of 'tendency' or 'coincidence' evidence in child sexual assault trials. This split formed part of a recent appeal to the High Court by Robert Hughes, a television actor who had been convicted on several counts of child sexual abuse. This article draws on this case to explore these issues of admissibility, the potential misuse of tendency evidence, joint trials for cases of multiple sex offences, and whether the High Court decision in Hughes resolved this conflict.

Allegations of child sexual abuse in parenting disputes : an examination of judicial determinations in the Family Court of Australia.

Ferguson C, Wright S, Death J, Burgess K and Malouff J
Journal of Child Custody v. 15 no. 2 2018: 93-115
This article investigates the outcomes of family court cases involving allegations of child sexual abuse. 156 judgments of the Family Court of Australia, from 2013-2015, were assessed to identify how often allegations are substantiated, suspected to be true, or disbelieved, and the characteristics of cases such as the type of evidence presented, who made the allegation, and prior child protection involvement. The analysis found that a low rate of substantiation - lower than rates found in other studies - and that allegations made by mothers against fathers were disproportionately unsubstantiated.

Briefing on attrition rates in reported cases of sexual offences against children under 18

Children's Society (Great Britain)
London : Children's Society, 2018
This paper adds to what is known about the scale of different sexual offences against children in the United Kingdom and how these offences progress through the criminal justice system. Using police data for the period from 1 October 2015 to 31 September 2016, it looks at the number of reported sexual offences known to be about children or young people, the type of sexual offence, outcomes of closed cases, and cases closed due to evidential difficulties. The paper concludes with advice to police working with children and recommendations for policy and practice. The paper estimates that around 54,000 sexual offences against children under the age of 18 were recorded by police in England and Wales in this period, but this does not reflect the full number as not all offences recorded include the age of the victim.

Lived experiences of grooming among Australian male survivors of child sexual abuse.

Plummer M
Journal of Interpersonal Violence v. 33 no. 1 Jan 2018: 1805-1829
This article adds to the evidence on child sexual abuse grooming with a study on the experiences of male victims. The article discusses themes from interviews with 11 men aged 38-67 years old who had experienced sexual abuse in childhood. The participants were asked about the characteristics of grooming experiences, differences between grooming experiences prior to and after the onset of abuse, and the immediate and long-term impacts of grooming experiences. The article concludes by highlighting how these men's experiences identify limitations in how grooming is defined under New South Wales law.

Information relating to Australia's joint fifth and sixth report under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, second report on the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, and second report on the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict: submission to the Committee on the Rights of the Child

Australian Human Rights Commission, National Children's Commissioner (Australia), United Nations. Committee on the Rights of the Child
Sydney, NSW : Australian Human Rights Commission, 2018.
In this report, the Australian Human Rights Commission presents 60 recommendations to the Australian Government on matters of children's rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. A wide range of issues are addressed, including civil rights and freedoms, human rights legislation, data collection, children detained in adult prisons, the age of criminal responsibility, violence against children, forced marriage and female genital mutilation, race and sex discrimination, family environment and alternative care, disability, basic health and welfare, education, leisure and cultural activities, surrogacy and recognition of legal parentage, cyberbullying and image based abuse, and special protection measures. Though most Australian children grow up in safe and healthy environments and do well, there are some groups of children whose rights are not adequately protected, impacting upon their wellbeing and ability to thrive. Recommendations include that the Government develops a National Plan for Child Wellbeing, amends the Family Law Act to require that children are provided with an opportunity to express their views, amends the Family Law Act to clarify the definition of parent for children born from surrogacy arrangements, explicitly prohibits the use of isolation and force as punishment in juvenile justice facilities, and facilitates a national model for working with children checks.
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