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Christian Service News

Issue 31 (April 2001)

Topic : Opinion Feedback

<font face="新細明體" color="#990066">Our feedback to the Department of  Justice regarding the new proposed Criminal Law on "Persistent Sexual Abuse of Children"

As stated in an informational document from the Department of Justice , children sexual abuse cases were often discovered long after the incidence had happened, whereby victims might have difficulties to recall the particulars that would meet the requirement of evidence. The Department of Justice is therefore proposing an amendment to the criminal laws regarding persistent sexual abuse of children. Similar to the Australian model, under this new offence, prosecutor only needs to prove that the accused had committed an unlawful sexual act more than three times within a specified time period, and it is not necessary to prove the dates when the unlawful sexual act was committed nor the exact circumstances in which the unlawful sexual act was committed.

We basically support this proposal. According to our past experience working with sexually abused children, it may be detrimental to a child victim if he/she is required to reminisce and articulate the details, during which he/she may suffer emotional unrest again. Thus, the proposed new law may help ease the burden, and hence the pain, children victims have to go through when they recollect the incidences.

In our opinion, the prime goal in these abuse cases should be to protect the children. The new proposed offence law will not only help minimize potential harm to children victims, but will also send a stronger message through sentences according to the severity of a case to deter potential offenders.

On the other hand, there may be a dilemma that a reduction in the evidence requirements from a child victim may increase the chance of a wrong verdict in cases where the current requirement would have resulted reasonable doubts. Moreover, as it may be easier to bring a case to court, the accused may experience unnecessary turmoil during investigation or prosecution, such as public pressure. Although a case may eventually be dismissed, damages done may be irreversible. In such cases, although the new law will better protect the interest of children, it may also inevitably bring unnecessary harms to the accused. We hope that appropriate guidelines will be provided for the court so the interest of both parties will be well balanced.

Another concern relates to the change of social workers working with the child when it has become a court case. Usually the initial social worker (in some cases he/she is the one who uncovered the abuse) will not be assigned to follow-up with the child. However, we learnt from our experience that it is very difficult for the child to accept and thus trust a new social worker especially during such crisis when the child victim needs the support and care from people he or she trusts. Therefore, we would suggest a close communication between the social workers after change hands. Moreover, interdisciplinary collaboration (e.g. among social workers, police, legal professional, and school personnel) will certainly give a better care for the child victim.

Lastly, we think that the closure of a child abuse case does not mean an end to the case. The victim may need a long time to recover from the trauma. Thus, it is very important for the government to reinforce after-effects supports (e.g. family services and counseling services) so a more comprehensive care can be provided for children victims.


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