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  • Home Resources & Technical Articles Criminal Offence Topics (A to Z) Sexual Offences Sexual Offences and Penalties in the Northern Territory (NT)

    Sexual Offences and Penalties in the Northern Territory (NT)

    There is a broader range for offences or other improper sexual actions in the Northern Territory.

    Generally, the Criminal Code Act 1983 (NT) and the Sentencing Act 1995 (NT) covers all legislations and legal guides for sexually related offences in the jurisdiction, including the Sentencing of guilty persons.

    A person guilty of a sexual offence in the NT is liable to severe punishments, which usually includes imprisonment as stipulated in the NT’s Criminal Code. Sexual offences, especially those of forceful/non-consensual intercourse and acts of indecency, incur one of the most severe forms of punishment in the NT.

    If an individual is convicted in an ACT court for a sexual offence, the offence will show up as a disclosable court outcome (DCO) on a national criminal history check in the NT.

    In the majority of instances, sexual offences are dealt with as an indictable crime in the NT.

    Sexual Offence definition by the law

    The law considers it a sexual offence when a person coerces, forces, blackmails or violently the victim (another) to a sexual/related activity. Consent is a crucial element in determining whether a sexual act is illegal.

    It is also an offence if the person was reckless to the lack of consent from the other person (for example, they ignored the "disadvantaged" position the other person is consenting from)

    It includes all cases where the victim cannot make a sound or reasonable decision or agreement at the point of the act;

    • The victim was drunk, intoxicated, or under the influence of any substance
    • The victim could not understand the degree of impact of the action
    • The victim was tricked as to the benefits or gains of the act
    • The victim was wooed or tricked at a disadvantage point
    • Any other disadvantageous position of the victim that the court considers relevant or where it would be difficult for a person to make a reasonable decision.

    Types of Sexual offences and punishments

    The Criminal Code lists general types or degrees of sexual offences and the prescribed punishments. However, depending on the nature of the offence, the court can decide to issue penalties within the maximum stipulated punishments.


    1. Sex without consent (Rape)

    Popular as rape in other contexts or jurisdictions, this is the most severe sexual offence in the NT, and it attracts a maximum punishment of life imprisonment.

    Section 192 of the Criminal Code Act 1983 (NT) describes the various scenarios for these sexual offences to include;

    • The person inserts their male genitalia into the vagina, anus, mouth or other openings of another person, or the person inserts an object into the vagina or anus opening of the person for a non-medical purpose.
    • Cunnilingus or fellatio.

    It is an offence if the person carries out any of these acts without the other person's consent or was reckless as to the consent.

    Sexual offences in the NT includes both oral and penetrative sex where the other person does not consent, or gives consent because of a position of reasonable disadvantage.

    All Rape/sex without consent and related actions carry a life imprisonment term.


    1. Offences of Gross indecency without consent

    The definitions for gross indecency are usually broad and contain many "immoral acts" just short of sex without consent. However, it includes all cases where the person commits acts that cannot be classified as "Rape" but all the same as a sexual offence.

    For example,

    • Improper touching or kissing or arousing a person physically,
    • Other physical actions that simulated non-consensual sex
    • Attempt to coerce a person to have non-consensual sex
    • Other relevant factors the court considers would be reasonably "indecent."

    Offences of gross indecency in NT incurs as much as 14 years imprisonment term.


    1. Aggravated cases for the offences

    A person who attempts to commit an offence of non-consensual sexual intercourse is liable to imprisonment for seven years. However, if the offender injures the victim while attempting the act, they will be liable to 14 years imprisonment.

    If the offender attempts non-consensual sexual intercourse with a minor (person under 16 years), the court can sentence them up to 14 years imprisonment.

    Anyone guilty of Attempts at sexual offence and causes the victim serious harm will receive punishments of up to 17 years imprisonment,


    1. Indecent Assaults and mandatory Sentencing

    It is a double offence to assault a person in the NT with sexual undertones or non-consensual acts. Section 188(2)(k) describes assaults that involve reference to the sexual sensitive parts as "Indecent Assault".

    Indecent Acts include;

    • Touching of the breast (inside or outside clothing)
    • Kissing/pecking a person without consent
    • Touch or squeeze on the buttocks
    • Caressing a person without consent
    • And any other non-consensual acts of assault (not resulting in non-consensual intercourse).

    Offences of indecent assaults carry a maximum imprisonment term of 5 years.

    Also, it is not a defence in court that the person assaulted consents to the initial act of the assault.


    1. Coerced sexual self-manipulation

    Self-manipulation is the act of a person defiling or penetrating their sexual openings with an object or material manipulated by that person. It is a severe offence in the NT for another person to coerce, trick or blackmail into self-manipulation.

    Section 192B of NT’s Criminal Code Act stipulates a maximum penalty of up to 17 years for all coerced sexual self-manipulation acts.

    However, it may be a defence in court if the other person could reasonably stop or avoid the sexual self-manipulation but did not.


    1. The offence of Sexual relationship with a child

    Any improper emotional or physical relationship with a child, including sexual connotations or features, is illegal under section 131A of the Criminal Code. It includes all sexual offences delineated in sections 127, 128, 130, 132, 134, 188(1) and (2)(k), 192 and 192B of the Criminal Code Act 1983 (NT)

    Section 13A(2) prescribes punishments of 7 years for adults who maintain a sexual relationship with a child under 16 years. However, the prosecution must prove that the offender cultivated or built the relationship up to the point of sexual references and acts.

    The adult is liable to 20 years imprisonment if they commit a sexual offence during the period if;

    • The standard punishment for such sexual offences is over 20 years, but greater than seven years.
    • The offence was some other than section 192(8) or 192(B)

    Otherwise, the adult may be liable to life imprisonment, especially if;

    • The offences were against section 192(8) or 192B, or
    • A sexual offence where the person is liable to over 20 years imprisonment

    Defence to this charge

    It is a defence for the defendant team if they can prove that;

    • The child was above 14 years, and
    • The accused person reasonably believes that the child was above 16 years at the time.

    1. Indecent dealing with a child under 16 years

    Section 132 of the Criminal Code Act 1983 (NT) describes indecent actions against a child as assault cases under sections 187 and 188. It includes where any of these indecent actions are committed against;

    • Children under 16 years
    • Exposes a child to an indecent act
    • Allows the child to perform indecent actions
    • Exposes the child to improper or indecent activities, pictures, photographs.
    • Takes or records indecent images of the child under 16 years.

    It is an aggravating circumstance if the child is under ten years old. For this case, the offender is liable to a 14 years imprisonment term.


    1. Incest

    Section 134 lists offences of incest or sexual intercourse between family members as liable to a 14 years imprisonment term.

    Incest is the act of sexual intercourse between related people and an offence under common law and regulations. An aggravated form is when any of the participants is a child, the adult is liable to 20 years imprisonment.

    If the child is under ten years, the court can issue punishments up to 25 years imprisonment.


    1. Bestiality

    Having sexual intercourse with an animal is an offence under section 138 of the NT legislation. The court can issue punishments up to 3 years for anyone found guilty of the offence. It can be an aggravating circumstance if the animal is a possession of another person.


    1. Attempt to procure or influence

    It is an offence to commit any sexually related acts in the presence of a child culminating in;

    • Influencing,
    • Recruiting,
    • Persuading,
    • Tricking

    The child (under 16 years) to have sexual intercourse, commit indecent acts or other sexual improper conduct.

    Section 131 prescribes punishments of 3 years imprisonment for such offences, increased to 5 years if the offender is above 18 years.


    Offences of Sexual Servitude

    Division 6A of the Criminal Code Act describes all actions that constitute illegal acts of sexual servitude. This offence primarily covers all cases where a person has coerced or recruited people (usually females) to work as prostitutes in dire conditions/deals. Section 202 also prohibits all business, enterprise that functions as a channel for sexual servitude or forced prostitution with maximum penalties between 20 years and life imprisonment.

    It is sexual servitude if the person was coerced, forced or threatened into the act, usually without gains or control over themselves.

    An adult guilty of coercing another adult into sexual servitude will incur penalties of up to 15 years imprisonment.

    If the victim of the sexual servitude is a child, the adult responsible is liable to 20 years imprisonment.

    If the victim were under 12 years at the offence period, the offender would get Sentencing up to life imprisonment.

    It is irrelevant to the case if the offender did not know the victim's age or believed they were older.

    What is not consent under NT laws

    Most offenders claim there was consent as a defensive mechanism during the court hearing. While consent may be a defence, not all seeming cases of consent can be accepted in court.

    It is not "consent" for sexually related acts if the victim;

    • Was not physically resisting
    • The victim did not sustain an injury
    • The person had consented to the activity on a previous occasion.

    Also, there is no form of consent that is available in court if the victim is a child (less than 16).

    It is not a defence that the offender did not know the victim's age for offences of non-consensual sex and sexual servitude.

    Will a Sexual Offence in NT show up on a national criminal history check?

    If an individual is found guilty of a sexual offence in NT, the offence will show up as a disclosable court outcome (DCO) on the results of their criminal record check.

    Individuals can obtain a criminal history check online via the Australian National Character Check - ANCC® website.

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