Committing a sexual offence is a very serious crime in Australia. In Queensland, all sexual offences are governed by the Criminal Code 1899. This legislation includes offences against both adults and children. Victim or perpetrator, we asked a sexual assault lawyer at Guest Lawyers to explain the definitions, laws and penalties surrounding these sexual offences.
What is Consent?
According to the Criminal Code, consent means:
Consent freely and voluntarily given by a person with the cognitive capacity to give consent.
A person’s consent to an act is not freely and voluntarily given if it is obtained—
(a) by force; or
(b) by threat or intimidation; or
(c) by fear of bodily harm; or
(d) by exercise of authority; or
(e) by false and fraudulent representations about the nature or purpose of the act; or
(f) by a mistaken belief induced by the accused person that the accused person was the person’s sexual partner.
Factors that could impact a person’s cognitive capacity include youth, intellectual impairment, and intoxication.
This offence covers a wide range of unwanted sexual activities including groping or inappropriate touching. It is also sexual assault if one procures another person without their consent to either commit or witness an act of indecency. The maximum penalty for sexual assault is 10 years imprisonment, or 14 years if there is a circumstance of aggravation. Under Sect 351 of the Criminal Code, assault with intent to commit rape is also classed as an offence, and is punishable by a maximum of 14 years imprisonment.
Rape and Attempted Rape
Under sections 349 and 350 of the Criminal Code, rape is unlawful carnal knowledge of a person against their will by penetrating the genitalia or mouth with an object or body part. This penetrative sexual offence is gender neutral, and no incident is any more serious than another. Our sexual assault lawyer explains that an attempt to rape a person is also deemed a sexual offence. The Criminal Code defines ‘attempt’ to mean a person who intends to commit an offence, but does not fulfil the intention to commit the offence. Any person who attempts to commit this crime is liable to imprisonment of 14 years. The punishment for rape is life imprisonment.
Indecent acts such as publicly exposing genitalia, sending naked photographs to another individual and even pretending to perform a sexual act on another person are all regarded as sexual offences. Indecent acts can be performed in any place to which the public is permitted to have access, or in any place with the intent to insult or offend a person. Under Section 227 of the Criminal Code, a person who is guilty of an indecent act is liable to 2 years imprisonment.
Sexual Offences Against Children
According to our sexual assault lawyer, many offences concern children under the age of 16. Under the Criminal Code, sexual offences against children where there is an absence of consent can include the following:
- Indecent treatment of children under 16;
- Procures a child to commit an indecent act, wilfully exposes a child under the age of 16 years to any indecent object or any indecent film, videotape, audiotape, picture, photograph or printed or written matter; or without legitimate reason, takes any indecent photograph or records, by means of any device, any indecent visual image of a child under the age of 16 years;
- Unlawful carnal knowledge of children under 16;
- Using electronic communication (e.g. email, internet chat rooms, SMS messages) to procure children under 16 to engage in a sexual act, or to expose children under 16 to any indecent matter;
- Incest (carnal knowledge with or of the person’s offspring or other lineal descendant, or sibling, parent, grandparent, uncle, aunt, nephew or niece)
Punishments vary from 10 years to life imprisonment depending on the crime. If a person is guilty of a crime that includes possessing, making or distributing child exploitation material or child pornography, the maximum penalty is 20 to 25 years under Section 228B of the Criminal Code.
Pornography and Visual Material
Pornography or any other visual material made of another person without their consent, no matter the age, is a sexual offence under Section 227A of the Criminal Code. Our sexual assault lawyer explains that this offence can take place in any private place (bathroom or bedroom) and during any private act (showering or undressing). This offence also extends to using a mobile phone in a public place to take photos or videos of a person’s genital region without consent. All offences are liable to a maximum penalty of 3 years imprisonment.
It is also an offence to distribute a prohibited visual recording without the other person’s consent and is punishable by a maximum penalty of 3 years imprisonment.
Speak to a Sexual Assault Lawyer at Guest
If you are a victim to any of these sexual offences or are facing assault charges, we strongly recommend seeking legal advice from a sexual assault lawyer. Our team of experienced solicitors can offer the support and legal representation needed to effectively argue your case. Other services at Guest Lawyers include personal injury matters, traffic offences and drug offences. Please get in touch with our lawyers by email or phone.