Attorney-General and Cronulla MP Mark Speakman has introduced legislation into State Parliament to close a loophole in the law that led to the acquittal of a PE teacher who had a sexual relationship with a student,17.
In that case, which occurred at Port Stephens and ended in a decision by the Court of Criminal Appeal in December, 2017, the student attended the teacher’s school but was not in the teacher’s class at the time of the relationship.
Mr Speakman said the law would be changed to ensure a teacher who had a sexual relationship with any student at their high school could face jail time.
“School students are entitled to a safe learning environment, free from sexual exploitation and manipulation by those in a position of authority and trust,” he said.
“While the age of consent in NSW is 16, it’s an offence for teachers to have sex with a child aged 16 or 17 when that child is under their ‘special care’.
“The crime carries maximum jail terms of between four and eight years.”
The Justice Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 will expand the definition of teacher under the special care offence so that it covers:
- Teachers at the school beyond the student’s direct classroom teacher.
- Teachers who do not provide instruction to students such as the principal or deputy principal; and
- People employed at the school who have care of or authority over students, which may include school counsellors, welfare officers or year advisers.
Mr Speakman said the overwhelming majority of teachers did an exceptional job of educating our young people in a safe and professional environment.
“However, the changes to the Crimes Act 1900 will protect 16 and 17-year-old students against a miniscule number of teachers and other school staff who misuse their authority,” he said.
“These amendments will reassure parents that our schools are safe spaces where their children are protected from this kind of predatory behaviour.”
Mr Speakman said the government was also considering further strengthening child sexual abuse laws, including further protections for 16 and 17-year-olds, following recommendations by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.