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What Is An Indecent Act and How Does it Differ From Other Sexual Offences?

A sexual offence does not necessarily involve touching. This is referred to as an indecent act.

In Queensland, all sexual offences are governed by the Criminal Code Act 1899. Any sexual activity without consent is unlawful in the state, and can include showing indecent images to another person, touching another person, and penetration with a body part or object. A sexual offence does not necessarily involve touching. This is referred to as an indecent act.


What is An Indecent Act?

Under Section 227 of the Criminal Code Act 1899, any person who –

“ (a) wilfully and without lawful excuse does any indecent act in any place to which the public are permitted to have access, whether on payment of a charge for admission or not; or

(b) wilfully does any indecent act in any place with intent to insult or offend any person;

is guilty of a misdemeanour.”

Any person found guilty of performing an indecent act is liable to 2 years in prison. A major defence of this act is if the offence was performed under an adult entertainment permit, then it will not be considered an offence. However, activities that may breach this permit include masturbation or touching genitalia. These may still be considered an offence.


What Constitutes an Indecent Act?

An act of indecency may include exposing oneself in front of a child or in public, sending naked photos of oneself to another person, pretending to perform a sexual act on another person, and public masturbation.

In order for a person to be found guilty, it must be proven beyond reasonable doubt that:

  • The act was done towards another person without their consent;
  • They committed an act of indecency with the intent to insult or offend another person.


How Does This Offence Differ to Other Sexual Offences?

Other sexual offences include rape, incest and sexual assault. The key difference between an indecent act and other sexual offences is that an act of indecency does not involve touching.

Regarding the offence of sexual assault, it is mostly committed through a physical act. However, it might include acts with no touching.

Section 352 of the Criminal Code Act 1899 refers to the offence of sexual assault as any person who:

“(a) unlawfully and indecently assaults another person; or
(b) procures another person, without the person’s consent;

(i) to commit an act of gross indecency; or
(ii) to witness an act of gross indecency by the person or any other person;

is guilty of a crime.”

While the Act does not define ‘gross indecency’, we can assume that the term ‘indecently’ applies in a sexual connotation, and the term ‘gross’ refers to an act that is unacceptable and obviously wrong.

Non-consensual sex acts that fall short of sexual intercourse may be charged as Gross Indecency, or as Indecent Assault, depending on the circumstances of the offending and at the discretion of the prosecution.

The offence of sexual assault can also involve a person witnessing an act such as masturbation or being forced to watch pornography.


Speak to Our Lawyers If You Are Charged With an Indecent Act

If you have been charged with an indecent act or any form of sexual assault, it is important you consult with a criminal lawyer. At Guest Lawyers, we are experienced dealing with a number of assault offences, as well as other criminal offences and sex offences, and we offer initial consultations (including in prisons). Please get in touch with us either via email or by calling (07) 3211 3007.