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Queensland passes law to jail priests for not reporting confessions of child sexual abuse.
Priests in Queensland will now be compelled to break the seal of confession to report child sexual abuse or face three years in jail.
- The law was passed with the support of the Opposition
- It enacts a recommendation of the child sexual abuse royal commission
- Police Minister Mark Ryan says it will help protect vulnerable children
New laws passed through Queensland Parliament will force members of the clergy to report known or suspected cases of abuse to police.
The legislation means religious institutions and their members are no longer able to use the sanctity of confessional as a defence or excuse in child sex abuse matters.
Police Minister Mark Ryan said the laws would ensure better protection for vulnerable children.
“The requirement and quite frankly the moral obligation to report concerning behaviours towards children applies to everyone everyone in this community,” he said.
“No one group or occupation is being singled out.
“Child protection is everyone’s responsibility.”
The laws apply to information received from now, even if it relates to abuse that occurred in the past.
The law was supported by the Opposition.
‘They will go to jail before obeying’
But One Nation MP Stephen Andrew said it set a dangerous precedent for religious leaders.
“The bill poses a real danger for public trust and cohesion in our community,” Mr Andrew said.
“Many priests and bishops have publicly stated that they will go to jail before obeying these laws.
“How confident can the people of Queensland be that they live in a free and open democracy governed by the rule of law, where the state jails its bishops?”
Members of the Catholic Church in Queensland have previously voiced their opposition to the laws.
Earlier this year, Brisbane Catholic Archbishop Mark Coleridge told the ABC he believed breaking the confessional seal would “not make a difference to the safety of young people”.
‘It’s about morality’
Hetty Johnston from the child protection group Bravehearts expressed her support for the new laws.
“I don’t think there is enough jail time in the world that would replace a child’s innocence … what sort of punishment is suitable for someone who would allow that to happen?
“So I don’t know that it’s about time, it’s about morality.”
The laws enact recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
The passing of the law also coincides with Queensland child protection week.