Child abuse: Liability of statutory authority to report to police

Although not arising from a medical practitioner’s report, the appellate decision today in DC v State of New South Wales [2016] NSWCA 198 appears quite important. It is interesting to consider its potential applications to others statutory authorities receiving complaints.

Apart from some factual findings, the court was required to consider whether the authority, having been notified of child physical and sexual abuse, had a duty to report the abuse to police.

By majority (Ward JA, Sackville AJA) the court held that the duty of care owed to the appellants was a duty in the exercise of the statutory powers under the Child Welfare Act to take all reasonable steps in the circumstances of the appellants’ case to protect them from the risk of further physical and sexual abuse. Notification of the abuse to the police was required in order to satisfy this duty: [275]-[276].

The differing view suggested by Basten JA may see this matter as the subject of a special leave application.


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