Senate backs law against sexual grooming
A law to protect the young from grooming for sex by people in positions of power was backed yesterday by the Senate.
Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs, said the Criminal Code Amendment Act would create a new criminal offence of luring while in a position of trust.
The change will cover teachers, family members and members of the public who try to groom victims aged between 16 and 18.
Luring was already an offence, but it only protected children aged under 16 — the age of consent.
Ms Simmons said the “long overdue” legislation would close a gap in the law that had left many young people with no legal protection against their abusers.
She highlighted the courage of Christine DaCosta, a woman whose teacher groomed her for sex when she was a 17-year-old schoolgirl.
Ms DaCosta was groomed for sex by Robert DiGiacomo, her history teacher and family friend who was married with three children, while she was a pupil at Mount Saint Agnes Academy.
Police told her at the time that he could not be prosecuted as she was over 16 at the time.
Ms DaCosta went public with her story last year and has since campaigned for changes to the law to protect youngsters aged between 16 and 18.
Ms Simmons said the amendments also expanded the definition of luring to include verbal and written communication.
She told the senate the ministry also intended to launch an education campaign to spread knowledge of the changes among young people.
Dwayne Robinson, an Opposition senator, thanked Ms Simmons and her team for their work on the law change. He said: “We believe it's extremely necessary and needed to protect our minors.”
Michelle Simmons, an independent senator, added: “It is unfortunate that, as a society, we have to deal with the fact that some of our children have been victims, and continue to be victims, of sexual abuse.
“However, these amendments will certainly give greater attention to this crime, which has permanently altered the lives of so many young people in this community.”
James Jardine, also an independent, said that the legislation filled a gap in protection for young people, and that a public education campaign on the change would be beneficial.