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In NSW a new reform is being introduced to provide children with new support in sex abuse cases following the legal push by two young survivors.

Two sisters, Rose and Pippa Milthorpe, told their experience with child abuse and the traumatising experience of the court system in the Justice Shouldn’t Hurt campaign launched by news.com.au in November 2022.

The campaign included a petition that was signed by more than 67,000 people, calling for change and encouraging a program that would make sexual abuse matters less traumatic for children.

After receiving a copy of the report, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet announced that the State Government would be investing $64.3 million into an expansion of the Child Sexual Offence Evidence Program (CSOEP).

“Child sexual abuse is one of the most heinous crimes and those children who have already endured the unimaginable should not have to suffer further at the hands of a justice system designed for adults,” Mr Perrottet said.

Mr Perrottet also emphasised the burden the court can place on victims and families, especially when there is a lack of support available.

“No parent, no child across our state should have to go through that experience, and to hear about the time, the distress, for both of them and their parents – it has to be done much better. It’s hard enough, let alone for the legal system to be making it worse.” Mr Perrottet said.

In 2016 the program was piloted in Newcastle and Downing Centre Court Sydney.

In 2018, the government invested more than $28 million to make the program permanent in those two locations.

After hearing how Rose and Pippa Milthorpe struggled to navigate through the court system at such a young age, Mr Perrottet recognised the need for greater accessibility to this program for all people in the state.

“Our Government led the nation when we piloted this program and now we want to make sure that every child – no matter where they live in our state – can access this support.”

The Child Sexual Offence Evidence Program

In NSW, this program aims to provide care and support during one of the most traumatic experiences that a young person can go through.

“Under this program, young people are able to pre-record their evidence and are provided with intermediaries to assist them during police interviews and hearings, as well as supports to spare them the trauma of facing their alleged attacker in court.” Mr Perrottet said to the public in an interview.

With children at the most vulnerable age in their life, the program will also provide counselling to help young people rebuild their lives following such stressful and upsetting events in their life.

NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman expressed the reform’s importance in strengthening the state’s criminal justice response.

“We need to do all we can to ensure that children and young people who have been sexually abused are supported through the court experience, so they can begin the process of rebuilding their lives”. Mr Speakman said.

The current system lacked perspective on the long-lasting damage that can occur to a child exposed to traumatic events and having to relieve those experiences in court in front of their offender.

“Re-traumatising a complainant does not advance justice,” Mr Speakman said.

Attorney-General Mark Speakman highlighted that in most cases the court process did more harm than good whereby the pre-recording of evidence will help reduce this.

“It is important complaints not have to endure the harshness of a courtroom, they can give their evidence sooner,” Mark Speakman said.

The expansion and changes will come into effect from the 1st of July and apply to every district court in New South Wales.

Prevalence of child abuse in Australia

Child abuse is a serious issue on both a national and worldwide scale.

Children are seen as a target due to their innocence, and their sense of right and wrong being in developmental stages at a young age.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics Around 2.2 million women (23 per cent) and 718,000 men (8 per cent) aged 18 years and over have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime, including childhood sexual abuse or sexual assault since the age of 15.

In many cases, victims suffer at the hands of a family member or someone close to them.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare police data from six Australian states in 2018 showed there where 3,900 assaults against children aged 0-14 that were considered family violence (approximately 11 per day) and around 3,100 sexual assaults against children perpetrated by a family member (approximately 8.5 per day)

Statistics however are not always reliable and may not portray the full extent of child sex abuse in the community due to a lack of reporting to police as well as many children being too young to communicate the crimes upon them.

By Alyssa Maschmedt.

Published on 17/02/2023

AUTHOR Criminal Defence Lawyers Australia

Criminal Defence Lawyers Australia are Leading Criminal Defence Lawyers, Delivering Exceptional Results in all Australian Courts.

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