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New law to jail priests for not reporting child sex abuse confessions

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Priests in Queensland will now be compelled to break the seal of confession to report child sexual abuse or face three years in jail.

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New laws passed through Queensland Parliament will force members of the clergy to report known or suspected cases abuse to police.

The legislation means religious institutions and their members are no longer able to use the sanctity of confessional as a defence or excuse in child sex abuse matters.

Police Minister Mark Ryan said the laws would ensure better protection for vulnerable children.

“The requirement and quite frankly the moral obligation to report concerning behaviours towards everyone applies to everyone in this community,” he said.

“No one group or occupation is being singled out. “Child protection is everyone’s responsibility.”

The laws apply to information received from now, even if it relates to abuse that occurred in the past.

The law was supported by the Opposition.

‘They will go to jail before obeying’

But One Nation MP Stephen Andrews said it set a dangerous precedent for religious leaders.

“The bill poses a real danger for public trust and cohesion in our community,” Andrews said.

“Many priests and bishops have publicly stated that they will go to jail before obeying these laws.

“How confident can the people of Queensland be that they live in a free and open democracy governed by the rule of law, where the state jails its bishops?”

Members of the Catholic Church in Queensland have previously voiced their opposition to the laws.

Earlier this year, Brisbane Catholic Archbishop Mark Coleridge told the ABC he believed breaking the confessional seal would “not make a difference to the safety of young people”.

The laws enact recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

The passing of the law also coincides with Queensland child protection week.

– ABC / state political reporter Allyson Horn

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