The Crimes Act

?Evaluate the effectiveness of the legal system in addressing the issue of protecting children from abuse The main function of family law is the care and protection of its members. The law governs the relationships to ensure that children in particular are cared for, protected and finically secure. However, there are gaps in the legal system leading to justice not being served. Australia, as a whole have passed many laws regarding family violence, child abuse and child neglect. Responses to the care and protection of children include legislation, community services (such as DoCS), court proceedings and types of orders.

The Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), the Family Law Act 1974 (Cth) and the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 (NSW) are the three main pieces of legislation that cite the protection of children. They aim in safeguarding the health and wellbeing of children, including protecting them from violence or abuse and states that certain occupations that must report actual or suspected cases of abuse to authorities, cited in the Child Protection (Prohibited Employment) Act 1988 (NSW).

Also, under the Crimes Amendment (apprehended violence) Act 1999 (NSW), which amended the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), ADVO and APVO’s can be sought, which were brought in to protect people, including children from all environments. The police can issue these on behalf of a child and can also charge an offender with assault. If these orders are broken, the perpetrator can be charged under the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) with a maximum penalty of $5500 and/or a minimum two-year imprisonment. However, although many pieces of legislation aim to protect children (through the uses of ADVO’s, etc) weaknesses still exist within the legal system.

This is due to the fact that in order to prove that an ADVO has been breached, it must be proven beyond reasonable doubt, which may be hard to prove. Also, the punishment is a monetary value, which sometimes may not deter the offender from future potential abuse, as the person may have a high income and may be able to easily afford the maximum fine of $5500. The Department of Community Services (DoCS) also contributes to the protection and care of children. DoCS can remove a child/children from harmful situations, which can protect children from physical or psychological abuse within the household.

However, DoCS have been mainly criticized for its failure to monitor cases adequately and its lagging response time. This is because of the ineffective distribution of government funding and the allocation of resources, which have led to a high level of staff turnover, allowing many cases to go undetected such as a young boy called Sam in SMH article ‘The Saddest Dilemma’. This article givers readers a perspective of a social worker, employed by the government department charged with protecting children from abuse and neglect. One issues raised in the article is the concern that there are ‘more desperate kids then workers to care for’.

International law also provides the protection of children in many conventions and treaties. In particular, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 1990 (CROC), which has been ratified by Australia which sets out the basic rights of the children, with the prime focus on the “best interests of the child”. This can be seen in the SMH Article “Paying Violent men to go”, as Centrelink are now providing payments to abusive men to leave the domestic home, allowing the mother and child(ren) to stay at home, which is in fact putting the “best interests of the child” first.

However, International law, including CROC, is only enforceable and effective if countries, such as Australia, in act these laws into their own domestic legislation. Children are vulnerable members of society, and therefore deserving of greater levels of protection. Yes, the legal system is somewhat effective in finding children who need protection. However, some unfortunate children are not recognized by the legal system until it is too late, which is seen in the SMH article ‘DOCS didn’t protect Kiesha’, which outlines the story of a 6 year old girl named Kiesha, who was repeatedly abused by her mother.

This young girl was reported to DOCS on several occasions with concern about her wellbeing, but DOCS didn’t investigate this matter further. This girl was murdered by her mother in 2011. The legal system needs to be more responsive with some of these cases involve abuse of children. This is evident as in 2007, more than 150 children who had previously reported to DOCS at being risk of harm died at the hands of an abusive parent/carer, according to the ABS. There also needs to be a focus on early intervention and prevention strategies to protect children from abuse and reduce the effects that abuse has on children.

In conclusion, it can be seen that the legal system provides protection for children from abuse, however is lacking in some areas, which prevents the legal system to be fully effective. There needs to be more campaigning in the area of child abuse to let society aware of the issue. There also needs to be more government funding to provide for resources and more staff to help all children who are in dangerous situations. The legal system is effective in some ways in protecting SOME children from abuse, but is ineffective at protecting a wide range of children.