Priests who fail to report the confessions of child abusers to authorities will be breaking the law under new legislation to be introduced in Queensland. Source: Brisbane Times.
The state's teachers, doctors, nurses, childcare workers and school principals already have to report crimes against children. New laws affecting religious clerics will make it an offence to fail to report abuse and make it clear the sanctity of the confessional cannot be used as an excuse, defence or privilege.
The proposed change is in line with a recommendation stemming from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and follows similar moves by other states.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk made the announcement yesterday in State Parliament, The Australian reports.
“We owe it to those victims, and we owe it to our communities,” Ms Palaszczuk said. “Today I announce we will introduce laws compelling priests of all religions to report the confessions of child abusers as other professionals are required to do.
“Teachers, doctors, nurses, childcare workers and school principals have no choice but to report to authorities crimes against children. The same should apply to religious organisations. I know that there are strongly and sincerely-held views that some things are sacred.
“I absolutely respect people have the right to their religion but not at the risk of a child’s safety. It will be an offence to not report or not protect the victim of a child abuser, religious confession or not.”
However, the ABC said Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath last year said: “There is nothing in Queensland’s statute which allows a member of the clergy to refuse to disclose the contents of a religious confession”.
Ms D’Ath this morning tweeted in response to ABC journalist Allyson Horn.
“That’s correct however we are introducing a new offence of a Failure to Report and making it clear that a religious confession cannot be used as an excuse, defence or privilege for this offence, as per (Recommendation) 35 of the Criminal Justice Report which strengthens our laws,” Ms D’Ath tweeted.
The move follows a similar bill introduced in Victorian Parliament last week.
Priests in Queensland compelled to report abuse (Brisbane Times)
Palaszczuk moves to break seal of confessional (The Australian)
Lifting the lid on the confessional won’t protect children (The Australian)