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Goff introduces sexual grooming offence

Goff introduces sexual grooming offence

Paedophiles who groom children for sexual activity will face up to seven years' imprisonment under an amendment to a Bill currently before Parliament, Justice Minister Phil Goff announced today.

"A new offence of sexual grooming will be added to the Crimes Amendment Bill (No 2) when Parliament debates the Bill's committee stage within the next few weeks," Mr Goff said.

"It is currently illegal for a man to engage in sexual activity with a young person under 16, and this Bill broadens that offence to cover women.

"The sexual grooming amendment further extends the protection of young people from sexual predators by covering situations where a person contacts or arranges to meet a child, with the intention of having sexual activity, whether or not the intended abuse occurs.

"I thank United Future MP Marc Alexander for raising the issue of sexual grooming with me, and for helping the government in advancing the legislation.

"Those who offend sexually against children are often habitual, repeat offenders. The government has already enacted special laws to deal with the particular nature of their offending, such as the new extended supervision regime, and changes to make preventive detention more available. The new grooming offence will allow authorities to intervene and deal with those who sexually offend against children before a further victim is created.

"New technology such as the Internet and cellphones have made it easier for sex offenders to groom their intended victims. Specifically criminalising this activity is part of the response to the problem, but equally important is education to ensure that parents and caregivers, as well as children, are aware of the risks and the steps they can take to keep safe.

"The Internet Safety Group's NetSafe programme is developing education materials which will be invaluable in tackling the problem from the awareness end."

Mr Goff said people charged with sexual grooming would have a defence if they could prove they took reasonable steps to determine the age of the young person, and that they believed on reasonable grounds that the young person was over 16.

As well as containing the sexual grooming offence, Mr Goff said the Crimes Amendment Bill (No 2) closed a loophole allowing women to escape punishment for committing sex offences against children.

"It also significantly increases penalties for sex offences against children and young people under the age of 16, with the maximum penalty for sexual connection with a young person aged between 12 and 16 will be increased by three years, from seven to 10 years' jail, and the time limit for prosecuting such offences will be removed," Mr Goff said.

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