SYDNEY – Agence France-Presse
New offences and tougher penalties targeting live-streamed child abuse and online grooming were announced in Australia Tuesday in a bid to crack down on the growing role of technology in pedophilia.
The new laws, to be introduced in parliament this week, will also impose harsher fines on internet service providers if they do not report abusive material to police and increase jail terms for pedophilia crimes.
“This represents the strongest crackdown on pedophiles in a generation,” Justice Minister Michael Keenan told reporters in Canberra, without releasing details of the higher penalties and new offenses. “Specifically, these reforms are intended to criminalize emerging forms of child sexual abuse.”
The Herald Sun reported that internet providers and sites that host content such as Facebook would see potential fines jump from Aus$21,000 ($16,800) to Aus$168,000.
Keenan expressed frustration at the “manifestly inadequate” levels of current jail terms for those convicted of pedophilia crimes, saying the new legislation would also include mandatory minimum sentences “for the worst and repeat offenders.”
“Since 2012, only 58 percent of convicted Commonwealth child sex
offenders have spent time in prison,” Keenan said, adding that the common period of time behind bars was just six months. “This represents a staggering and unacceptable number of offenders who are released into the community without them being monitored, posing an unacceptable risk to our children.”
The announcement came months after Canberra introduced tough new laws hailed as a “world first” to cancel the passports of convicted pedophiles, preventing them from travelling overseas.
The Australian Institute of Criminology said in January there was limited data on the extent of online child sexual exploitation.
But the government body said a 2014-15 report by the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner pointed to the scale of the issue, with more than 5,000 investigations completed into child abuse material for that year.