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Child sex tourism - no place to hide

Media Release

30 July 2000

Media release from Senator, the Hon Amanda Vanstone, Minister for Justice and Customs

The sexual abuse of children is one of the lowest crimes possible Senator Vanstone, Minister for Justice and Customs said today. The latest Trends & Issues paper from the Australian Institute of Criminology highlights successes under the Federal Government's Child Sex Tourism legislation.

"We now have a number of successful convictions for offences committed by Australians overseas under the Child Sex Tourism laws," Senator Vanstone said.

"It was necessary to give these laws extra-territorial application so that child sex offenders in Australia can not escape justice.

"The Lee case in Western Australia saw a defendant imprisoned for 12 years. We believe this is the heaviest sentence imposed anywhere in the world for extra-territorial child sex offences.

"Prosecutions do not only involve offences against children in developing countries. In the Harman case the offences were committed against the defendant's 18 month old niece and 3-year-old nephew in the United States at their parent's home.

"It is not necessary to collect evidence from overseas in some circumstances. In the Pearce case the defendant was successfully prosecuted for two offences on the basis of photographs in his possession and his own admissions.

"In the Lee case the police were unable to locate the children involved in Cambodia. Photographs of Lee engaged in sexual activities with children formed a major part of the evidence. Though the photographs did not show Lee's face, forensic pathologists were able to match fingers in the photograph with Lee's fingerprints.

"It is not necessary to directly engage in sexual activities with children overseas. The Ruppert case involved letters which urged local adults in Ghana to train female children between the ages of 4 and 10 to engage in sexual acts with adults.

"Prosecutions are not easy under this legislation. Investigators and prosecutors face difficulties. It is satisfying that we are making people pay for these awful crimes.

"The paper recommends that court processes under this legislation need to be more sensitive to the needs of child witnesses. The Federal Government is currently examining options to improve procedures in courts for child witnesses in such cases.

"The media has an essential role to play in increasing public awareness of the child sex tourism laws so that they can report offenders to the police. In the Lee case the initial arrest was made after the offender bragged to his work-mates about his activities in Cambodia, including showing photographs of himself engaged in sexual activities with children."

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