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Crimes Act Strengthened To Better Protect Children

Hon Judith Collins
Minister of Justice

19 March 2012

A new law making it an offence to stay silent when it is known that a child or vulnerable adult is at risk of death, grievous bodily harm or sexual assault takes affect today.

The Crimes Amendment Act (No 3) 2011, passed in September last year, strengthens provisions in the Crimes Act 1961 particularly in relation to violent and sexual offending.

Ms Collins says children are the most vulnerable members of our society and deserve special protection.

“It is no longer acceptable for a person, such as a family member, to claim they were not involved in the abuse of a child when they knew a child was at risk.

"The fact that a person lived in a household and knew of abuse makes them involved,” Ms Collins says.

Failure to speak out and take reasonable steps to protect a child or vulnerable adult will result in charges with a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment.

The Crimes Amendment Act (No 3) 2011 also strengthens provisions in the Crimes Act to deal with knife crime and limits the claim of right defence to circumstances where defendants believe they have a personal right to the property concerned.

Specifically, the Act:

• creates a new offence of failure to protect a child or vulnerable adult from the risk of death, grievous bodily harm, or sexual assault and sets a maximum penalty of 10 years' imprisonment
• doubles the maximum penalty for cruelty to a child from five years to 10 years' imprisonment and extends it to include vulnerable adults
• amends the offence of sexual grooming to provide for offending that has been discovered through covert police investigation where a police officer has been posing as a young person
• increases the maximum penalty for possession of an offensive weapon from two to three years in response to concerns about knife crime
• amends the definition of claim of right so that the defence is only available in circumstances where the defendants believed they had a proprietary or possessory right in the property.

ENDS

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