The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse winds up today when the last of its reports is published. The commission has rightly focussed the attention of the nation on the appalling consequences of child sexual abuse for victims, their families and communities. But while the royal commission may have brought a sense of justice and healing to many of those who have encountered abuse, when it comes to ensuring justice for the accused as well as the accuser, there have been some troubling recommendations. To be blunt, the rights of persons accused of child sexual abuse may be substantially undermined by this royal commission, and false accusations against individuals and institutions may increase as a consequence.
To be accused of child sexual abuse is obviously reputation-destroying and career-ending for most individuals. In our society, there is today arguably greater anger and community outrage at accused persons in this category of alleged offending than there is for those who are accused of murder or manslaughter. The royal commission surely knows this, yet its proposed national redress scheme provides no safeguards and protections to ensure that false accusations are limited.