Sentencing for Child Sexual Abuse in Institutional Contexts

Arie Freiberg, Hugh Donnelly and Karen Gelb

July 2015

ISBN 978-1-925289-20-6

Executive summary

This report forms one part of the larger inquiry conducted by the Royal Commission on child sexual abuse (CSA) in institutional contexts. A criminal justice response to CSA entails a long and difficult process of reporting, detection, prosecution, trial and disposition. Sentencing is one of the final stages of this process, however the number of people convicted and sentenced of CSA represents a very small proportion of those who commit such offences. Attrition rates are very high and accordingly very few offenders are held to account, and only a small number of victims can be vindicated through this process. While CSA occurs in a variety of contexts – most frequently in a familial environment – CSA offences in an institutional context, which is the focus of this inquiry, amount to only a small fraction of all CSA offences. However, the institutional focus of this report requires particular attention to be given to systemic, rather than individualistic, issues and responses to CSA.

Scope and purpose of this report

This report examines sentencing law and practice, the principles of sentencing, sentencing standards and the range of non-sentencing statutory measures available to detain offenders in custody, as well as restrictions and monitoring of their movement. It also considers organisational responsibility for CSA and the sanctions that may be imposed upon institutions.

In this report, we do not endorse a particular response to institutional CSA. Rather, we highlight the approaches adopted both in jurisdictions around Australia and overseas. The intention of this report is to collate disparate information on responses to institutional CSA to provide a resource for those seeking reform in this area.