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Australia to take “world-first” measure to prevent sex offenders from abusing vulnerable children overseas

Australia already punishes its citizens or residents who abuse children overseas with up to 25 years imprisonment. Despite this, paedophiles who are citizens of, or living in, Australia remain notorious for taking cheap holidays to nearby locations in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Island countries as a means to sexually abuse children.

In a move to protect vulnerable children from sexual exploitation via sex tourism, Australia has revealed plans to ban convicted paedophiles from travelling overseas.

20,000 convicted paedophiles are currently on Australia’s child sex offender register and subject to reporting obligations and supervision. According to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, under new legislation which will soon be introduced into Parliament, the passports of these 20,000 convicted paedophiles would be cancelled.

Of those currently on the register, 3,200 serious sex offenders would be banned from overseas travel for life under the new legislation. “Less serious” offenders who will be removed from the register after complying with their reporting conditions, would become eligible to have their passports renewed.

Independent Senator, Derryn Hinch, who was involved in drafting the legislation and is a survivor of child sexual abuse himself, said that temporary passports could be provided to those subject to this travel ban if they needed to travel for legitimate business or family reasons. This is similar to Australia’s bankruptcy laws under which a bankrupt person is unable to travel overseas without a trustee’s permission.

Protecting vulnerable children from sex tourism and abuse is not just the responsibility of the country where the abuse actually takes place. Eliminating child sexual abuse and exploitation involves a collaborative, global effort, with each country taking responsibility for the part that their citizens or residents play in child abuse. To me, this proposed legislation indicates that Australia is taking this responsibility very seriously.

Rebecca Sheriff is a Senior Associate solicitor in the Child Abuse team at Bolt Burdon Kemp. If you or a love one have a claim, contact Rebecca free of charge and in confidence on 020 7288 4827 or at rebeccasheriff@boltburdonkemp.co.uk. Alternatively, complete this form and one of the solicitors in the Child Abuse team will contact you. Find out more about the Child Abuse team.

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