The Lisa Maria Foundation has welcomed the introduction of a mandatory reporting obligation on the part of professionals who come in contact with any potential abuse of minors.
Last week, parliament approved amendments to the Minor Protection Act, which includes a number of obligations on professionals who come into contact with children, both in a formal and informal manner.
The law obliges professionals to report any suspicious behaviour, while ensuring that they cannot be prosecuted should the suspicion turn out to be unfounded. On the other hand, a failure by professionals to report suspicious incidents or behaviour could result in prosecution.
Reports can be filed online and are to be handled by the child protection services. Professionals will also be provided with clear guidelines on the types of behaviour or incidents that should prompt a report.
The Lisa Maria Foundation was launched in 2014 with the intention of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of young children and youths. It was set up by Winston J Zahra whose niece, Lisa Maria died tragically that year when she was just 15 years of age. Zahra had been reported to have been in a relationship of sorts with her teacher at the time, 23-year-old Erin Tanti.
Tanti was accused of murder, eventually pleading guilty and being sentenced to 20 years in prison.
“We must ensure that perpetrators do not walk free and that they aren’t given the opportunity to disrupt the childhood, and lives, of other children. This is a step in the right direction,” the foundation said.
“Time barring has devastating effects on victims of sexual abuse. Having plucked up the courage to speak out about their abuse, victims often find out that justice is denied because a certain amount of time would have passed since the abuse took place,” it said in a statement.
Furthermore, it called on authorities to allow access to the Sex Offenders Register for all institutions employing people who have a duty of care towards children, adding that this needs to be made “easier, faster and free of charge”.
The foundation said that society needed to collectively ensure that it does everything possible to eliminate such terrible crimes and to ensure that perpetrators are handed the strongest possible punishment and no possibility to “hide behind deficiencies” in the legal system.
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