Minors who experience sexual abuse will be given an additional ten years to come forward and report the crime before the case becomes time-barred under a set of legal amendments being put forward by the Government.
The changes were announced by Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis together with Social Solidarity Minister Michael Falzon during a press conference earlier today.
The Bill that is to be presented to Parliament includes changes to various pieces of legislation, with the aim of strengthening safeguards against the abuse of minors.
Zammit Lewis explained that as things stand, crimes involving the abuse of minors can be reported up to 15 years after the victim turns 18.
In many cases of child abuse, the victim might be too young to know what is happening to them and so the legal provision is intended to allow such crimes to be reported once the victim reaches adulthood.
The proposed changes will see this age increase to 23. It will also see the prescriptive period increase from 15 to 20 years, meaning that anyone who might have experienced sexual abuse in their childhood will be able to report this up until their 43rd birthday.
Zammit Lewis said that discussions had taken place with various stakeholders, including NGOs, the police and the Attorney General’s office.
He said that while removing the statute of limitations altogether was considered, it was ultimately decided that this wouldn’t be in the interest of the proper administration of justice, adding that a prescription period needed to be retained in order to give legal certainty.
Another proposed change is to rape laws, which will be amended in order to allow more discretion to the courts in cases relating to consensual sexual acts taking place between similarly aged individuals, one of whom is just under the age of consent.
The minister noted that there was clearly a difference between the case of an individual just over the age of consent having sexual relations with another individual who was just under the age, and that where someone who was clearly an adult was in an abusive relationship with a minor.
The minister added that changes would also be implemented to broaden rape laws and close existing loopholes that allowed aggressors to evade punishment. Similarly, the definition of sexual grooming will also be expanded in order to include anyone who attempts to meet a person under the age of 16 for the purposes of sex, even if the meeting doesn’t end up taking place.
Furthermore, it is being proposed that the Mental Health Act be updated in order to allow minors to seek emotional and psychiatric treatment even in the absence of consent by their parent or legal guardian.
The Bill is also proposing to make it a criminal offense to remove a child that is under a care order by the state.
Bestiality – the act of having sex with an animal – will also be addressed through the proposed legal changes, which will seek to amend the animal welfare act to make bestiality a form of animal abuse.
What do you make of these proposed changes?