Calls for drastic change to sex offender laws
A SURVIVOR of sexual abuse is calling for radical legislation change to make sure historical attackers get what they deserve, and is backed by one of the state's most respected lawyers.
Suzanne Rex's sexual abuser was spared actual jail time when he was sentenced for the indecent treatment against her as a 14-year-old, more than 53 years ago.
The man pleaded guilty, and the matter was settled in the magistrate's court, in a move she said was unfair and unusual.
He served just three days behind bars, which was time spent in a watch house awaiting his fate.
Mrs Rex said the laws should be changed, and wants it to be mandatory for all aggravated historical sexual abuse matters to be committed to a higher court.
"A child, back then, which I was, is no different to a child today," she said.
"We are hurting the same way. The same thing is done to us yet these people are getting off.
"It's not fair, it's traumatic."
Her passion was backed by criminal lawyer Bill Potts, who had never seen a historical sex abuse case spanning this length of time.
Mr Potts encouraged Mrs Rex to lobby with other sexual assault survivors in her position, saying the state government should look into the move.
"These sorts of grassroots campaigns are important, especially given that her case is so rare," Mr Potts said.
Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman was pressed by the Townsville Bulletin about changing the laws, but she claims the current legislation is good enough.
"Magistrates are highly qualified, experienced and professional judicial officers and must have regard to the same sentencing laws and principles as higher courts," Ms Fentiman said.
"A charge of sexual nature can be dealt with summarily before a magistrate if certain limited circumstances exist regardless of when the offence is said to have occurred.
"We understand how difficult it can be to relive trauma of historical child sex offences that's why our Government acted swiftly and made a range of reforms to recommendations in the Criminal Justice Report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse."
Under Queensland Law, all three courts, magistrates, district and supreme, can hear sexual assault matters.
Ms Fentiman did not say whether she thought this created an injustice for victims whose attackers are not given the same treatment.
Ms Fentiman did not say whether a review would be done into Mrs Rex's case.
Mr Potts said where a matter is dealt with depends on the nature of the assault, the length of time passed, and the rehabilitation of the offender, among many other factors.
In Mrs Rex's case, Mr Potts said the magistrate had to sentence based on the penalties at the time of the offence.
"Magistrates have to apply the law and the penalties as they were 50 years ago," he said.
"They almost have to put themselves back in the shoes of the people at that time."
On September 15 last year, the government made a range of reforms made in response to recommendations in the Criminal Justice Report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
These reforms included an amendment to ensure that historical child sexual offenders are sentenced according to the sentencing standards at the time of sentence, rather than those that existed at the time of the offence.
Originally published as Calls for drastic change to sex offender laws