The mother of an 11-year-old girl who took her own life after her accused rapist was released on bail has cautiously welcomed a proposal for law reform making it harder for those accused of child sexual abuse to be released.
Annaliesse Ugle’s family said her desperate actions were prompted by the release on bail of a man accused of sexually abusing her.
Shadow police minister Peter Katsambanis on Tuesday asked WA Police Minister Michelle Roberts whether the government supported a request for reform, referred to as Annaliesse Ugle’s Law.
The proposal will make it harder for anyone who has been charged with child sexual abuse to be released on bail.
Minister Roberts said she had had “discussions with senior police” and would continue to “have discussions with our Attorney-General” about the proposal.
She said it would be appropriate to “give these measures proper consideration and that is what we will do on behalf of the whole community”.
Mum still expects to wake up to ‘bubbly, outgoing’ child
Annaliesse’s mother, Samantha Wilson, said she and Annaliesse’s four siblings were now locked in a “juggling act” of dealing with grief while continuing to advocate for justice for Annaliesse.
Ms Wilson said her enduring memories of Annaliesse were a “loud, bubbly and outgoing” child who “loved arts, swimming and being with her family”.
“We are still all in disbelief, we all think we are going to wake up every morning and see her running out, jumping on us, singing, dancing and cooking us breakfast,” Ms Wilson said.
“But we want laws to be changed so children have a voice to be heard.
“Anna’s not here any more, but me and my family are her voice now and we are going to speak up and argue the point until the message gets across.”
Reform ‘long overdue’, advocates say
Curtin Indigenous human rights law Associate Professor Hannah McGlade said the death had exposed “systemic flaws” in the West Australian legal system.
She said the legal system had not taken concerns and “genuine fears” relayed by Annaliesse and her mother Samantha seriously.
“We know that the police didn’t oppose bail and there were very serious offences involving a young vulnerable child,” Ms McGlade said.
“That in itself indicated a lack of concern for the victim, which are required to be considered and prevail in court matters. That was really not in the minds of the court of the police.”
WA-based National Suicide Prevention and Trauma Recovery Project national co-ordinator Gerry Georgatos welcomed the development.
Mr Georgatos, who has been in contact with Ms Wilson in the aftermath of the tragedy, said while legislative change was still “some way off,” the mention in Parliament was a sign a call for change had been heard.
He said the reform was overdue and would protect victims while still ensuring natural justice to alleged child abuse offenders.
The state coroner is preparing a report on Annaliesse’s death. She was buried in Collie on Monday.