Special unit to support
An investigation unit designed to prosecute sex offenders is to be established as part of the Royal Commission on the sexual abuse of children due to begin later this year.
Prime Minister, Julia Gillard announced the terms of reference saying they would focus on the “systemic failures and issues”.
Ms Gillard said while Royal Commissions did not have the power to prosecute individuals, the Government would ensure allegations of abuse raised by the Commission could be investigated and, if proven, prosecuted.
The terms of reference outlined in the Commission’s Letters Patent supported this claim, instructing Commissioners that since they would “be informed by individual cases” they “may need to make referrals to appropriate authorities in individual cases.”
They also granted the Commission license to “establish investigation units to support your inquiry”.
Ms Gillard said: “The Commissioners can look at any private, public or non-government organisation that is, or was in the past, involved with children, including government agencies, schools, sporting clubs, orphanages, foster care, and religious organisations”.
“The Commission will not specifically examine child sexual abuse outside organisations, such as in the family.
“However, any recommendations made by the Commissioners are likely to improve the response to child sexual abuse wherever it happens.”
She said the Royal Commission would be led by the Chief Judge at Common Law of the Supreme Court of NSW, Peter McClellan who would work with a further five Commissioners throughout the inquiry.
“All Commissioners have been appointed for a period of three years and will begin their inquiry as soon as possible,” she said.
“The Commission will prepare an interim report by no later than 30 June 2014, so that governments and organisations can start taking action on the Commission’s early findings and recommendations.”
Ms Gillard said the final reporting date had been set for the end of 2015, but that would be subject to advice in the interim report.
“The Government will also introduce legislation into the Parliament to amend the Royal Commissions Act 1902 to allow evidence to be taken by a single or multiple Commissioners rather than requiring all Commissioners to be present,” she said.
“This will improve the efficiency of the evidence gathering process and avoid delaying the Commission’s work.”
The Letters Patent can be accessed in full at this PS News link.
Edition 344, 15 January 2013