​Vic to bring child protection laws into the digital age

Victoria’s government has moved to update its child protection laws to keep pace with new technology, particularly social media settings.

The state’s Attorney-General Mark Pakula yesterday introduced new bill into Victoria’s parliament to update more than 50 child protection and sex offence laws.

In a statement released yesterday, Mr Pakula said the legislation would stop child abusers from exploiting loopholes in current child protection laws that put offences carried out using digital technology services such as Skype and Snapchat out of their reach.

In particular, the laws would be updated to make it an offence to commit an indecent act with a child regardless of whether the child is physically present or preventing offenders escaping punishment from state prosecutors.

It will also see the introduction of a new offence criminalising distribution of child abuse material when it’s uploaded to file servers, online chat services, and shared on email and social media.

“We’re modernising the offences, we’re taking account of new technology and the way child abuse can occur by way of new technology,” Mr Pakula said in a doorstop interview in Victoria yesterday.

The legislation would also see the term child pornography from current child protection laws in favour of child abuse material to reflect increasing trade in violent and sadistic images of children.

It will also introduce harsher penalties for indecent acts with children under 16.

Mr Pakula introduced the bill into Victoria’s parliament yesterday and its scheduled to be read for a second time today and could pass the lower house as soon as Thursday.

Mr Pakula said he would be surprised if the bill didn’t receive the full support of both houses.

Child protection advocates have warned that the new laws need to be accompanied by school education programs, as children were often the worst offenders when it came to distributing indecent material online.

The overhaul of the laws is part of a wider reform child protection laws that began in 2010 and adds to a tranche of changes that were introduced in 2014.

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Tags digital agechild protectionVicCSO AustraliaMark PakulaVictoria’s government

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Andrew Colley

CSO Online
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