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Child Abuse- Legal Issues

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Legal Process- Semester- Assignment One

Consider the following hypothetical scenario:

In October 2015 The National newspaper wrote a series of investigative reports into child abuse in Australian schools. The articles caused an uproar and in response to this the Federal government decided to introduce a range of measures to address the issues raised. One of those measures was to propose the Protection of Children in Education Bill. The bill was introduced into Parliament by the Minister for Education, who stated in her second reading speech:

“Child abuse is the scourge of our society, and has no place in or around our schools. This government is committed to protecting schoolchildren from all kinds of abuse, whether perpetrated by parents or other family members, or by those whose job it is to look after children. In particular, we want to tackle abuse occurring in or near in our education facilities. We need our schools to be safe havens, where children can learn and interact free from fear of abuse.

Another major issue in our society is that of neglect. Too many schoolchildren are not showing up for school because their parents are neglecting them at home. This bill will tackle both of these issues head on.”

The bill passed without amendments and received Royal Assent on 10 February 2016. The act as passed reads as follows:

The Protection of Children in Education Act 2016

  1. Long Title

An act to prohibit child abuse in all its forms.

  1. Definitions

In this Act:

‘parent’ includes guardian, carer or any person responsible for the well-being of a child

‘mistreat’ means to hit, smack or otherwise harm a child, or to use abusive language towards a child

‘neglect’ means to fail to provide adequate care or due attention to a child, or to maintain basic standards of hygiene in the child’s home

‘school’ means primary or secondary school, university, learning centre, or other place where learning occurs.

Offences

  1. A parent shall not mistreat a child in the vicinity of any school

Penalty: $5000 Fine or 1 year imprisonment

  1. A parent shall not neglect any child in their care

Penalty $5000 fine or 1 year imprisonment

  1. Any person who suspects that a child has been mistreated or neglected under this act, must report this suspicion to police.

Penalty $1000 fine or 3 months imprisonment

Facts

Jill is the grandmother of Callan, a 4 year old child. Callan’s mother works part-time and, as Jill lives with the family, she usually takes him to and from his family day care three days per week. On 25th March 2016, as Jill was taking Callan into day care and he started to throw a tantrum as she went to leave. Jill lost her temper with Callan and told him to ‘shut up or you’ll get a smack’. Callan started screaming louder, so Jill walked up to him with her fist raised and shouted ‘shut up you little monster!’ Callan ran away from her into the arms of the carer and Jill left the centre.

Jill picked up Callan a few hours later and dropped him home. Later that day Callan’s mother, Raylene, received a visit from an official from the Department of Family and Community Services. The official asked where Callan was, and Raylene said he was out in the backyard playing with the dog and his little brother, Jack, who is two. The official asked how long they had been out there and Raylene said about ½ hour. The official went out to the backyard and found Jack sunburnt and crying with a dirty nappy whilst Callan was playing with the dog. Raylene says the house was untidy at the time but not dirty- she had put all of the rubbish out the night before, and the dishes had been done.

Raylene was really worried about the events and went to see a junior lawyer, Janet, for advice. She explained the whole scenario. Janet told her not to say or do anything to police and to get further advice if she was charged.  Jante did not report the events to the police.

A few weeks later Jill was charged under s3 of the act for the events at daycare and Raylene was charged with two counts under s4 of the act- one for Callan and one for Jack. Janet had also heard you were an expert in this area and asked for your opinion as to whether she has committed an offence under s5. Advise Jill, Raylene and Janet.

Write your advices using the ‘IRAC’ method. Discuss statutory interpretation law only, do not discuss issues of criminal liability (eg mens rea, defences to criminal liability, etc), constitutional law or any other area of law.

Do not make up facts in addition to those provided here.

Word Limit: 2000 words.

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