Paedophiles who use the Internet to exploit and sexually abuse children will face jail terms of up to 10 years under tough new laws introduced into State Parliament.
Attorney General Jim McGinty said the proposed new laws were designed to crack down on cyber predators who exposed children to indecent material or attempted to 'groom' children for sexual activity.
“The sexual abuse and exploitation of children is one of the most insidious of crimes,” Mr McGinty said.
“Paedophiles all over the world are using the anonymity of the internet to prey on young children so we need modern legislation to combat that abuse.”
The Minister said that police units investigating paedophilia in Australia and around the world reported that internet chat sites set up for children were being increasingly used by perverts seeking to meet and exploit children.
“There is evidence that paedophiles frequently use Internet chat sites, sometimes even posing as children, to befriend and groom a potential victim for sexual exploitation,” he said.
Mr McGinty said predators might attempt to coerce children into sending photographs of themselves by email or mobile phone or even meet their victim and sexually abuse them.
Under the Criminal Code Amendment (Cyber Predators) Bill 2005, people convicted of procuring a child they think is under 13 for sexual or indecent activity or supplying a child under 13 with indecent material face a penalty of 10 years imprisonment.
Offenders face five years jail for the same offence if they believe the child is aged between 13 and 16.
The Minister said the new laws would allow police to pose as children on-line to conduct operations against paedophiles trawling Internet chat rooms for potential victims.
“This legislation will act as a deterrent because if the predators know that the children they are targeting may be police officers, then they are less likely to offend,” he said.
The new laws will also enable a magistrate to issue a court order to force suspected paedophiles to provide police with access to data storage devices such as computers and mobile phones.
Mr McGinty said police had reported cases where the prosecution was thwarted by the encryption of evidence and the Bill would help overcome new methods of hiding evidence.
Suspects who do not assist police face five years jail.
The Attorney General said changes would be made to the Working With Children (Criminal Record Checking) Act so that people convicted of the new cyber offences would be prevented from working with children.
“The Gallop Government is committed to preventing the abuse of children in Western Australia and this legislation will help us protect our kids and prosecute those sick individuals who prey upon them,” Mr McGinty said.
New laws will also be introduced this year to provide the indefinite detention of serious sex offenders and convicted child sex offenders on completion of their sentence if there is a risk they will re-offend.
Attorney General's office: 9220 5000