Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (18:51): I rise briefly to speak to Mr Grimley’s motion. I think it is interesting having this motion coming off the back of the debate that we held yesterday, which really talked about the very pointy end of sex crimes. I know I said yesterday, ‘How do we reduce sex crimes? Well, we stop people committing them’. That changes culture, and I know Mr Grimley mentioned this in his introductory remarks to this motion—and it is true. Like many people in this room, I have experienced sexual assault and I did not report it. I have written about it, I have talked about it and I have been public about it, but I did not go to the police. As a young woman, I felt that shame; I felt all of those things. So I understand that we do have these cultural issues around this and that we do see under-reporting, and even when someone reports it there is the difficulty of that going forward. Attitudes do need to change, and as Mr Grimley said, listening to that police officer on that radio station, someone’s first question was, ‘What was she doing out there?’. The question is: ‘Why were those people raping a young woman?’. That is the question; it is not what she was doing there. And that was the same question for me, although I know I questioned whether I could have done something to have changed those circumstances. So I agree that this needs to change.
My concern with this and the reason that I am troubled by this—I cannot actually support this motion—is that I feel that what we are seeing here is a back door, a Trojan horse, to a national public register for sex offenders. Now, I look forward to hearing Mr Grimley assure me that this is not what he is saying, and like him I am passionate about reducing sex offending. But even seeing Mr Hinch on social media—when we talk about things like sex offender information inquiries, Mr Hinch’s response to that is, ‘That’s why we need a public register’, and I do not support that. I do not believe in public registers. This is a difference of opinion; I appreciate that.
I also believe that there is very good empirical data that says that public registers do not reduce offending but in fact they increase it. They increase recidivism; they actually make things more dangerous for us. I really feel that in the way that this is mentioned—and I appreciate Mr O’Donohue’s amendments to this and appreciate that Mr Grimley did let us know that while this information would be centralised and publicly available it would be made anonymous, and I accept that—this is a Trojan Horse and it is a thinly veiled access to a public sex offender register, which is something that I actually passionately, passionately oppose.
I want things to change and I want things to change in so many ways—not just for myself but for my nieces, for my daughters, for my granddaughters. I want our culture to change. I do not want those questions of ‘What was she doing there?’, ‘Why was she there?’, ‘Why were they there?’ being the question. The question is: ‘Why did that person do it?’. That is the question our community should be asking. That is the question, and that is what we need to be changing.
I take some comfort that we are seeing that the Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC) is investigating this, is doing this work and will be looking at the impacts of the changes that we have made to legislation. And frankly the changes that we have made have not improved the statistics, have not improved where we are at and have not improved the number of women and men who will come forward and report a sexual assault and who, once they report it, will continue to pursue that sexual assault. So I have a lot of sympathy with this motion. As I say, I am really pleased to see the law reform commission’s work on this. I feel that the work that the law reform commission will be doing on this will actually meet some of the calls that this motion asks for—that we look at why it is not working, why our system does not work for the victims of sexual assault.
It was a conversation that we all had passionately and respectfully, which was very pleasing to see—for the most part respectfully—yesterday around the victims. Yesterday was about letting them speak; today we are discussing—if we were to take this on its face value—how we learn more. I think this is what the Victorian Law Reform Commission will do. It will do the work that Mr Grimley is asking for the government to do.
Finally, I also say that I have found with the inquiries that I have been involved in—whether it was the end-of-life choices inquiry or whether it was reducing the age of driving to 17—that the data that we have, the crime stats that we have, are inadequate. We do not have the data. Every time we go to the police to ask for data it is just not there. I certainly think that there is an issue with data collection. I certainly think that we have not got that right, and we need to do that. I look at the terms of reference for the VLRC’s inquiry into improving the response of the justice system to sex offences, and I see that that is actually part of their terms of reference. So unfortunately I cannot support the motion today, but I hope that I live to the day that sex offending is rare and reported 100 per cent.
Business interrupted pursuant to sessional orders.
Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Northern Metropolitan Region
Motion by Mr Grimley 11/11/20
Mr GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (17:57): I move:
That this house:
(1) notes that:
(a) the 2016 personal safety survey recorded that only one in 10 women who had experienced a form of sexual assault by a male contacted the police to report the offending;
(b) the experiences of victims and survivors are not often considered when proposing reforms to Victoria’s legal system;
(c) the under-reporting of sexual offending and sexual assault cases is not the result of any individual cause;
(d) some victims withdraw sexual abuse charges due to the lack of support or belief in the reporting process and feeling pressure from the offender or family in the process;
(e) as the gatekeepers to the pursuit of legal action in a sexual assault, training of sexual offences and child abuse investigation team officers, which considers the complex relationships and trauma experienced by the victim, is fundamental to providing positive outcomes for victims, therefore combatting rates of attrition and non-reporting;
(f) it is impossible to determine responses to under-reporting without the centralised recording of reasons for the withdrawal of sexual assault cases
(2) calls on the Andrews government to:
(a) create a centralised and publicly available database of victim’s experiences and complaints when pursuing sexual offending charges; and
(b) undertake authoritative investigation into the specific causes of low rates of reporting and high rates of attrition at each stage of progress through the legal system and consequent reform recommendations.