Wagga Nationals MLC Wes Fang says the NSW government's move to allow juries in child abuse cases to hear of a defendant's criminal history and sexual behaviour will help secure more convictions.
If new legislation is passed, NSW will the first state in Australia to give prosecutors a greater range of admissible evidence in child sexual abuse cases.
Mr Fang said he had been told by the Attorney General's office that the new laws could lift child sexual abuse convictions.
"We are the first state in Australia who has put forward this legislation in order to hopefully see the conviction rate increase from what is around 50 to 60 per cent to somewhere around 90 per cent, which is what we have for most other crimes," he said.
"I imagine that we will have bipartisan support on this and it will pass.
"When it does pass, what it will do is allow the kind of evidence that we saw at the royal commission being allowed in the courtroom to prosecute these offences."
NSW Police recorded 113 child and juvenile victims of sexual or indecent assault and other sexual offences within Wagga City Council's boundaries in the 12 months to September 2019, down from 163 in the previous 12 months.
At the moment, juries in criminal trials are not normally told about any crimes in the defendant's history and judges can declare a mistrial if that information is improperly publicised while a case is ongoing.
Mr Fang said the legislation would not remove the right to a fair trial.
"These issues were discussed and considered during the royal commission, but overwhelmingly the balance of justice versus acquittal is better served by allowing tendency and coiincidental evidence into the hearing.
"Will it lead to people being falsely convicted? I don't think so because you need to have demonstrated that the tendency or coincidence had occurred.
"At the movement [prosecutors] are just not allowed to introduce that.
On Tuesday, NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman introduced the Evidence Amendment (Tendency and Coincidence) Bill into Parliament.
"Tendency and coincidence evidence about a defendant often play a particularly important role in child sexual abuse prosecutions, especially in circumstances where a defendant is alleged to have abused more than one child," Mr Speakman told Parliament.
Mr Speakman read from the findings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
"The royal commission noted that child sexual offences are 'generally committed in private and with no eyewitnesses [and] no medical or scientific evidence capable of confirming the abuse'," Mr Speakman said.
"The royal commission also noted: Where the only evidence of child sexual abuse is the complainant's evidence, it can be difficult for the jury to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the alleged offence occurred. The jury is effectively considering a "word against word" case.
"In these cases, evidence of other allegations-or convictions-of child sexual abuse perpetrated by the accused person can be valuable evidence to assist the trier of fact to determine whether it is more likely that the alleged offence or offences occurred, as the allegation is supported by evidence from other complainants or witnesses who say that the accused also sexually abused them."
Wagga MP Joe McGirr said he would support the legislation.
"It's my understanding that it is a recommendation of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse," he said.
"Although NSW is the first, there will be a number of other jurisdictions introducing similar legislation.
Dr McGirr said it would be difficult to say whether the new laws would increase the rate of child sex abuse convictions in the Riverina.
"In general terms often it is a situation of one person's word against another," Dr McGirr said.
"In circumstances like that, where the jury does not have access to information about a person's previous conduct, that can tip it against the victim.
"I think [the legislation] is an important development."
Mr Fang said the legislation would create more certainty for police and prosecutors about what kind of evidence they could use.
"My understanding is that police and prosecutors are already determined to take these matters to court, so I don't think it will improve the motivation for the Director of Public Prosecutions or police," he said.
"What it will do is allow them to have more certainty that when they do take it to court, they can introduce the evidence they have found to be relevant during the investigation into the court."