Landmark reforms to be introduced to NSW Parliament today will remove a significant barrier that has prevented child sex offenders from being held to account, Baulkham Hills State Liberal MP David Elliott said.
“The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse shone a light on devastating crimes that have been hidden in the shadows for far too long,” Mr Elliott said.
“Survivors of abuse often face significant challenges when seeking justice. These reforms will help to break down a barrier to successful prosecution and target some of the worst crimes that confront our justice system.”
The Royal Commission heard about many criminal proceedings in which evidence of an accused person previously offending against a child or children was ruled inadmissible due to courts’ concerns that it may unfairly prejudice the accused person.
The Royal Commission found the exclusion of ‘tendency’ and ‘coincidence’ evidence of this kind led to unwarranted acquittals in child sexual offence proceedings.
“We are helping to ensure offenders aren’t evading justice through the exclusion of relevant evidence. These reforms will mean perpetrators are better held to account, without prejudicing an accused person’s right to a fair trial,” Attorney General Mark Speakman said.
“NSW is the first state or territory to introduce these reforms following a NSW-led process to overhaul laws about the admissibility of tendency and coincidence evidence in relevant jurisdictions across Australia. While we can’t undo the horrors of the past, we can make sure that our legal system offers a fairer and more effective response for victims and survivors.”
The Evidence Amendment (Tendency and Coincidence) Bill 2020 introduces a rebuttable presumption that evidence of a defendant having, or having acted on, a tendency to have a sexual interest in a child or children is presumed to have ‘significant probative value’.
Uniform Evidence Law jurisdictions agreed to implement the Model Bill at the Council of Attorneys-General meeting in November last year.
NSW was the first state to join the National Redress Scheme and has introduced the most comprehensive package of civil and criminal justice reforms in the country in response to the recommendations of the Royal Commission.