Allegations of child sexual abuse: An empirical analysis of published judgements from the Family Court of Australia 2012–2019

Date

2021

Authors

Webb, Nola
Moloney, Lawrence J.
Smyth, Bruce
Murphy, Robyn L.

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title

Publisher

Australian Council of Social Services

Abstract

Allegations of child sexual abuse pose agonisingly difficult issues for families, family law professionals and the courts. We present data from the population (N=521) of Family Court of Australia judgements containing allegations of child sexual abuse published in the Australasian Legal Information Institute's Australian database. Our data cover all in-scope judgements published between mid-2012 and mid-2019, of which 71 dealt with cases that were uncontested. A further 70 were contested but the allegations were abandoned before the end of the trial. We classified the remaining 380 cases as “fully contested”. Of this group: (a) in 14% of cases, judicial officers expressed a direct or clearly implied belief that the allegations of child sexual abuse were true; (b) risk of sexual harm to a child was found in 12% of judgements; (c) when no risk of sexual harm was found, judges were more than twice as likely to regard the allegations as genuine but mistaken rather than to have been deliberately misleading; (d) just under two-thirds of allegedly unsafe parents had the time they spent with their child(ren) increased by the court; and (e) in 17% of judgements, children's living arrangements were changed to the allegedly unsafe parent.

Description

Keywords

child sexual abuse, decision making, family law, social policy, social welfare

Citation

Source

Australian Journal of Social Issues

Type

Journal article

Book Title

Entity type

Access Statement

Open Access

License Rights

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License

DOI

10.1002/ajs4.171

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