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  • Sexual Offences and Penalties in Queensland (QLD)

    All over Australia, Sexually related offences are dealt with a high form of severity either in penalties to the offender or speed in a court proceeding. It is no different in Queensland, as sexually related offences usually attract severe punishments as provided in the Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld).

    The most crucial aspect of sexual offences is whether there was “consent” to the act by both parties. Where one party is cheated, tricked or coerced to such an act, the Law begins to unravel the matter as to the concerns of “Consent”.

    If an individual is convicted in a QLD court for a sexual offence, the offence will show up as a disclosable court outcome (DCO) on a Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check in QLD.

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

    What is a sexual offence?

    Sexual offences range from the more criminal and severe form of Rape (penetration without consent) to other less severe yet important types like indecent touching and sexual manipulation. The punishment for sexual offences in Queensland varies depending on the type of offence and what the prosecution can prove against the offender.


    1. Rape

    There are few ambiguities in the Law when it handles the Rape charge; the Act establishes a rape offence where the accused person does any of this;

    • Penetrate the genitals (or other openings) of another person without consent,
    • Penetrate the vulva, vagina or anus of another person with an object or material outside the penis without the other’s consent,
    • Penetrating the mouth of a person with their penis without the other’s consent.

    Section 349 of the Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld) prescribes a maximum penalty of life imprisonment for an offence of Rape.

    A contextual difference in laws between Queensland and the other States/Territories on Rape is that the laws in Queensland only refer to Rape if consent was never given to the act. It does not include cases where the complainant withdraws initial consent during the process, or the accused only becomes aware of "no-consent" after intercourse occurs.


    1. Attempt to Rape

    As Rape is the most serious of all sexual offences, the attempt to commit the offence also carries severe punishments. An attempt under section 4 of the Criminal Code includes where the person begins to commit their intention to action but does not commit the offence.

    An attempt to commit Rape or other forms of sex without the other party's consent incurs a punishment of 14 years imprisonment.


    1. Sexual Assaults

    While assault in QLD is a severe crime in Queensland, the Act defines/prohibits further if such acts were for sexual reasons. Section 352 of the Act considers it a serious offence to;

    • Assault anyone, especially for sexual reasons/references
    • Engage another person to commit/witness the assault

    The actions constituting sexual assaults are usually broad, but they all include that the other party does not consent to it. Some indecent acts constituting sexual assault includes;

    • Use of sexualised speech,
    • Threats to Rape or perform other non-consensual sexual acts,
    • Threats of unwanted sexual contact,
    • Stalking a person for sexual reasons,
    • Sexual manipulation using blackmail,
    • Indecent touching, acting or other indecent acts.

    The offence of sexual assault carrries a ten years imprisonment term; it may be extended if there are other factors to the offence or if the person is a repeat offender within a period. If the assault was part of an intent to commit Rape, the court may issue penalties of up to 14 years imprisonment.

    It is an aggravated form of the offence if the person commits such action with a weapon, threat, violence, or another person's company. Also, any of these actions against a child (under 17 years) constitute a case of aggravation.

    Those found guilty of sexual assault with aggravating circumstances are liable to maximum punishments of life imprisonment.


    1. Indecent Display/acts

    The definition of Indecency may be ambiguous under the Queensland laws, but it is an offence to commit such actions to offend a person or group in public. Acts of Indecency usually incorporate behaviours or actions that pass for immorality under cultural, civil and religious definitions.

    For example, it is an offence to expose any part of your genitals or private regions in public without adequate legal reason. It may even be an aggravating circumstance that the act was committed in the presence of a child.

    Section 227 of the Criminal Code, which specifies the offence, prescribes a maximum punishment of 2 years imprisonment.


    1. Incest offence

    The Queensland Law explicitly prohibits a person from having carnal knowledge with a close relation/family. Section 222 specifies the offence prohibits all sexual relationships with a person's

    • Siblings,
    • Uncle,
    • Aunt,
    • Nephew,
    • Niece,
    • And any other close relation except those related by marriage.

    The Law prescribes a maximum punishment of 10 years imprisonment. This period can be aggravated if it is between an adult and a child. Unlike other sexual offences, it makes no difference that both parties consent to the act.


    1. Indecent dealing with children

    Section 210 of the Act prohibits all actions concerning the indecent treatment of children. Such offences are usually broad when determining the actions that may constitute them. Also, such offences against children are handled depending on the child's age or the severity of the offence.

    The offence of indecent treatment of a child includes all cases where the adult;

    • Indecently deals or interact with a person under 16 years (a child by Queensland laws)
    • Induces or convinces a child to perform an indecent act
    • Permits themselves or their properties to the disposal of a child for an indecent act
    • Knowingly and willfully exposes the child to an indecent act
    • Makes an indecent recording, picture or visual image of the child

    The punishments for such offence varies depending on the age and “condition” of the child such that;

    • ✔ Where the child is under 12 years old, the adult is guilty of a crime that carries a 20 years maximum imprisonment crime.
    • ✔ If the child is above 12 years, the offending adult is guilty of a crime that carries 14 years imprisonment.
    • ✔ Where the offending adult knows that the child is under their legal guidance or care at that time, they are guilty of an offence with 20 years imprisonment.
    • ✔ If the child has an impairment of the mind, the offending adult is guilty of a crime that carries 20 years imprisonment.
    • ✔ It may be a defence if the offending adult can prove that they reasonably believed the child to be above 16 years at the time of the crime.

    It is also a defence (in the case of a child with impairment) if the offending adult can prove they were reasonably unaware of the child’s impairment.


    1. Bestiality

    It is defined as the act of having carnal knowledge with an animal, either domestic or wild. Section 211 specifies the maximum punishment of a seven years imprisonment term for all offenders. It can become an aggravating circumstance that the animal is not a possession of the offender at the time of the offence.


    1. Offence of permitting indecent acts on children

    It is an offence to be the owner, caretaker or manager of a premise or building and allow/induce/know it is used for indecent activity relating to children. It includes all the proscribed acts by sections 210 and 215 of the QLD Criminal Code.

    The Act prescribes punishments regarding the age and severity of the offence such that;

    • ✔ If the child is above 12 years, the guilty party is liable to a ten years imprisonment term.
    • ✔ If the child is under 12 years, the guilty party is liable to life imprisonment if it is an offence against s215 or 14 years in any other case.

    1. Carnal knowledge with persons under 16

    For this context, a person under 16 is a child under the Queensland legislation. Section 215 of the Act makes it an offence to have any sexual relationship or knowledge with a child. It is crucial to this part and every other part regarding children that under 16 years cannot grant Consent under Queensland (Australian) laws.

    The penalty for this offence varies depending on the age of the child at the time of the offence;

    • ✔ Where the child is above 12 years, the offending adult is guilty of a crime incurring 14 years imprisonment.
    • ✔ If the child is under 12 years, the offender is guilty of a crime that incurs the punishment of 14 years imprisonment.
    • ✔ Where the child is under the care of the adult in a relationship and not a lineal descendant, the offender is guilty of a crime that incurs 14 years of imprisonment.

    However, if the child has an impairment of intellectual capabilities, the offender is liable to a life imprisonment term.


    1. Sexual abuse of a person with impairment

    People with impairment of mind are considered vulnerable under the Queensland and Australian laws. The court cannot hold them responsible for many of their actions, especially if it is proven that their impairment affected their decision.

    It is a severe offence for anyone, their legal guardian or a stranger, to exploit them, especially in a sexual manner.

    The offences of having carnal knowledge with such persons incur a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment.

    It is also a severe offence to deal indecently or in a manner that will constitute an offence to a person with impairment.

    Section 216 of the Act details the acts that constitute such offence as;

    • A person who deals indecently with such persons,
    • Unlawfully procures a person with impairment to commit the indecent act,
    • Permits themselves to be used/dealt indecently by a person with impairment,
    • Exposes/wilfully allows a person with impairment to commit an indecent act,
    • Where the person takes an indecent photograph or record of the impaired person with any device.

    1. Grooming a Child

    It is an offence to engage in this act to cause the child to engage in a sexual act or other indecent matter or expose them to it. Anyone guilty of this offence commits a crime where the Act stipulates punishments up to 5 years imprisonment.

    However, the adult is liable to 10 years imprisonment if the victim is under 12 years or an "imaginary" person the offender knows to be less than 12 years.


    1. Distributing prohibited visual recordings

    The court can consider the maximum penalty for all who share prohibited visual recordings, especially without the person's consent. Section 227B of the Act imposes a maximum penalty of 3 years for all offenders.


    1. Procuring sexual acts through coercion

    The Criminal Code details the offence of using threats or other intimidatory actions to coerce another person into a sexual act. For this case, it is irrelevant that the act occurred in Queensland or outside the State .

    It includes all cases where the person uses false pretence, drugs the person, or overpowers the person through any means to engage in a sexual act. For this offence, the court imposes penalties of up to 14 years imprisonment.


    1. Possessing child exploitation material

    A person who knows the quality or content to be exploitative to a child commits a crime. The Act stipulates maximum punishments of 20 years imprisonment if the offender takes specific steps to remain anonymous in the offence. Otherwise, the standard penalty is a 14 years imprisonment term.

    Definition of Consent under Queensland laws

    Consent is the bedrock of most sexual offences in Australia and Queensland. Consent may be ambiguous to both parties unless they understand what it means under Queensland laws. Section 348 negates all consent where;

    • ✔ The complainant had reasonable cause to fear for their lives,
    • ✔ There was a threat of violence, humiliation, degradation, blackmail,
    • ✔ The offender was in a position of direct authority or advantage,
    • ✔ A person gave it under 12 years (16 years in other cases)
    • ✔ The party was intoxicated by alcohol or drugs.

    Will a Sexual Offence in QLD show up on a Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check?

    If an individual is found guilty of a sexual offence in QLD, 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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