Reporting Harm and Sexual Offences Involving Children
Download Fact Sheet - REPORTING HARM AND SEXUAL OFFENCES INVOLVING CHILDREN
Download RTF version - REPORTING HARM AND SEXUAL OFFENCES INVOLVING CHILDREN.rtf
Why every person in the Northern Territory has a legal responsibility to report child abuse and neglect
The Care and Protection of Children Act (the Act) was passed by the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly in December 2007.
The objective of the Act is to promote the well-being of children by protecting them from harm and exploitation and by maximising their opportunities to realise their full potential.
Section 26 of the Act imposes a legal responsibility on every person in the Northern Territory to report child abuse and neglect and cases where children have been or are likely to be a victim of a sexual offence.
Child abuse can be prevented. Identification and reporting of harm to children are the beginnings of intervention and prevention of such abuse.
By protecting the child/young person and helping the family, future abuse can be reduced, even eliminated.
Why have amendments been made to the Careand Protection of Children Act to change the legal responsibility to report sexual offences involving children?
Amendments were made to Section 26 of the Act on 20 August 2009 to change the reporting obligations regarding sexual offences involving children.
These changes were made in response to community concerns that previous reporting requirements may have prevented some young people who were not at risk of harm or exploitation from accessing medical advice or treatment in relation to their sexual activity.
When did these changes come into effect?
The amendments to the Act came into effect on 1 September 2009.
What are the new legal reporting responsibilities in regard to sexual offences involving children?
The Department of Children and Families or the police must be contacted if any person believes on reasonable grounds that:
- Any child aged less than 18 years has suffered or is likely to suffer harm or exploitation.
- Any child aged less than 14 years has been or is likely to be a victim of a sexual offence (includes sexually active).
- Any child aged less than 18 years has been or is likely to be a victim of a sexual offence occurring in the context of a special care relationship.
Registered health practitioners in the NT have an additional responsibility to report to the Department of Children and Families or the police if they believe on reasonable grounds that:
- A child aged 14 or 15 years has been or is likely to be a victim of a sexual offence and the age difference between the child and the sexual offender is greater than 2 years.
Registered Health practitioners include Aboriginal health workers, chiropractors, dentists; dental hygienists; dental prosthetists, dental specialists; dental therapists, medical practitioners; midwives; registered nurses authorised to practise midwifery; registered and enrolled nurses, occupational therapists; optometrists; osteopaths; pharmacists; physiotherapists, psychologists and radiographers.
Definitions of harm, exploitation, sexual offence and special care relationship are defined in Attachment 1 to this Fact Sheet.
Download this visual guides to help understand what needs to be reported:
How do I make a report?
In the Northern Territory the preferred method of reporting harm to children is by phoning through to the Central Intake Team of the Department of Children and Families.
The Department of Children and Families provide a 24 hour, toll free number to make these reports. The number is:
Telephone 1800 700 250
Ask to speak to the Intake Worker. If you are unsure about whether to make a report, you can talk about your concerns with the worker who will advise if the concerns would constitute grounds for a report. If the Intake Worker advises that a report is necessary you will be asked for further information including:
- the child's name, age, address and present location;
- the nature of the suspected abuse or neglect;
- what you have heard or observed;
- information about the immediate danger to the child;
- any other information you think may help, e.g. whether you know of any other agencies involved with the family.
You may not have all this information but that should not stop you from making a report.
Do I have a right not to report?
The Act makes it an offence for a person with the requisite knowledge not to report. Anyone found guilty under the Act of this offence may be fined up to $22 000 or jailed.
The Act does allow a defence of 'reasonable excuse' for not reporting. The term 'reasonable excuse if defined below.
Information for Practitioners
The attached documents will assist Practitioners to report Child Sexual Abuse.
- Child Sex Abuse Protocols (Child Sex Abuse Protocols.rtf)
- Wallchart on Child Sex Abuse (Wallchart on Child Sex Abuse.rtf)
Harm to child
Harm to a child is any significant detrimental effect caused by any act, omission or circumstance on:
(a) The physical, psychological or emotional wellbeing of the child; or
(b) The physical, psychological or emotional development of the child.
Exploitation of child
Exploitation of a child includes sexual and any other forms of exploitation of the child.
Sexual exploitation of a child includes:
(a) Sexual abuse of the child; and
(b) Involving the child as a participant or spectator in any of the following:
(i) An act of a sexual nature;
(iii) A pornographic performance.
Sexual Offences involving a child
The Criminal Code says that some sexual acts are unlawful by reason of one of the persons involved being a child.
Section 127 of the Criminal Code says that any person who has sexual intercourse with or commits any act of gross indecency upon a child who is under the age of 16 years is guilty of a crime and is liable to imprisonment for 16 years.
In effect, any sexual activity with a person under 16 years is an offence, as persons under 16 years cannot lawfully consent to sexual activity. It is an offence regardless of whether both persons are under the age of 16 years.
Special Care Relationship
Section 128 of the Criminal Code says it is an offence for an adult who has a relationship of special care with a person under the age of 18 to engage in sexual intercourse with that person. This includes step-parents; guardians; foster carers; school teachers; persons providing religious, sporting, work or musical tuition, correctional services officers and health professionals.
It is a defence if the parties are married or in a de facto relationship.
It will be up to a court to determine if an excuse is reasonable or not.