Travelling child sex offenders

'Don't let child abuse travel!' (Image courtesy of Child Wise)Australians are renowned for their love of travel. Sadly there are some Australians who travel overseas to sexually exploit children. To protect children overseas, the Australian Government has created offences for this behaviour under the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act 1995.

It is a crime for Australian citizens, permanent residents or bodies corporate to engage in, facilitate or benefit from sexual activity with children (under 16 years of age) while overseas. These offences carry penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for individuals and up to $500,000 in fines for companies. The AFP has a role in preventing, disrupting and investigating Australians who are associated with such offences, in conjunction with relevant State, Commonwealth and international law enforcement partners.

These offences have provisions applying an extended geographical jurisdiction that enables offences committed overseas to be investigated and prosecuted in Australia. Other offences contained in the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act 1995 include reference to offences associated with using a carriage service (for example, a mobile phone or the internet) to commit offences related to the sexual exploitation of children. Again, these offences have extended geographical jurisdiction so that they will be investigated and prosecuted in Australia.

In April 2010, the Australian Government introduced changes which increased the penalties that apply to these offences and introduced a new offence. It is now an offence to prepare for or plan to commit a child sex tourism offence, or to groom or procure a child for sexual activity overseas. These offences allow law enforcement to intervene before a child is abused. The offences carry penalties of up to 15 years imprisonment.

The Australian Federal Police actively monitors and prosecutes Australian travelling child sex offenders. Convictions often result in significant jail sentences.

The AFP Annual Report contains further information regarding the AFP's activities to combat Australian travelling child sex offenders.

As part of the Bali Process the AFP also provides training and capacity building to law enforcement agencies within the region to combat travelling child sex offenders.

Reporting child sexual exploitation in travel and tourism

Report child sexual exploitation in travel and tourismAssist the AFP in combating this global problem. Use our online form to report information regarding child sexual exploitation in travel and tourism.

AFP policy in relation to international travel of Australian Registered Child Sex Offenders

Each State and Territory has laws that set out who becomes registered on the National Child Offence System (NCOS) as a ‘Registered Offender’. These laws also prescribe when a person ceases to be a Registered Child Sex Offender. 

A Registered Offender must report intended travel outside of Australia. The State or Territory Registrar is obliged under State and Territory law to advise the Australian Federal Police (AFP) with a copy of this report.

In accordance with its functions as set out in the Australian Federal Police Act 1979 (Cth), including crime prevention, the AFP may provide information relating to a Registered Offender’s international travel to a Foreign Law Enforcement Agency.

The AFP's current policy in relation to a Registered Offender's intended international travel is that notification will occur unless clearly unwarranted based on particular details of the Registered Offender’s information. This policy also relates to cruise ships departing from Australia travelling to International destinations.

The notification includes:

  • the offence(s) and sentence for which the Registered Offender is registered
  • registration period
  • travel details

Whenever the AFP provides such information, it is a decision for that foreign law enforcement authority as to what actions they may take, including denying entry to their country.

The AFP recommends that Registered Offenders seek advice from the relevant country or Cruise Ship operator prior to travel to ensure they confirm to their entry or travel requirements. Compliance with this will more than likely prevent the unnecessary loss of travel costs including airfares and accommodation.

Advanced Decisions

The AFP no longer provides an advanced decision on notification to registered offenders travelling overseas. It is the responsibility of the registered offender to liaise with the country they are visiting or the cruise ship operator they are travelling with to determine if they will be allowed into that country or onboard a cruise ship. The AFP will continue to proactively notify foreign law enforcement of the travel details of registered offenders unless the circumstances are clearly unwarranted.

Registered offenders are encouraged to contact the embassy and consular representation of the country they intend on visiting to determine if they will be allowed entry to that country. A full list of countries with embassy and consular representation in Australia can be found on the DFAT website.

For travel on cruise ships, the AFP recommends that registered offenders contact the security operations area of the cruise line they intend on travelling with to determine if they will allowed onboard.

Further Resources

National Security Hotline

Visit the AFP Futures Centre

AFP Annual Report 2016-17 now available

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