AUSTRAILIAN students are facing tougher sex offences laws after a landmark ruling that could lead to harsher penalties for sexual assault.
Key points:The Sexual Offences (Sexual Harassment, Sexual Violence) Act 2016 will see offenders face a minimum of 10 years in prison and/or a fine of $100,000US Attorney-General’s Office says students are still “too young” to be prosecutedUnder the legislation, perpetrators will face a maximum of five years in jail and/and a fine up to $50,000.
Under the new laws, victims will be eligible for up to three years in custody, and the offending will have to be “serious and persistent”.
But the move will also mean a significant increase in the penalties for other serious offences, including for indecent exposure, making threats, and rape.
“We’re really pleased that the Attorney-Generals Office has agreed with us on this and that we are now able to move forward in a way that is proportionate to the seriousness of the offences,” Assistant Commonwealth Attorney-Designate Lisa Leibold said.
“This is a huge victory for students who are in a vulnerable situation and who have been made to feel that they’re not protected under this legislation.”
Under the Act, students will be able to lodge a complaint directly with the court, rather than having to have an adjudicator from the Attorney General’s Office look at the case.
“It means that the student can now go to court and tell the judge what happened to them, which is good,” Assistant Attorney-Adjunct Professor Mark Gartland said.
The new legislation will also create a mechanism for victims to be notified when a sex offender has been released.
“The way we’ll work with the victims is they’ll have to go to the Attorney for review, which means that they’ll be able go through that process and they’ll get their say in whether they’re going to pursue any further action against the offender,” Professor Gartlands said.
Victims of sexual offences will also be able use the same online reporting and reporting tool to report the offences to police.
“These new laws mean that the victim of an offence will be entitled to receive a copy of the police report,” Professor Leibolds said.
She said the new legislation would provide a better and more effective system for victims.
“Victims will be notified and they will be given the option to take that online report and report it directly to police,” she said.
Students who are convicted of a sexual offence will also have to register their address with the Attorney Generals Office.
“There’s no penalty for those who are found guilty of this offence and those convicted will be subject to a minimum 10-year prison sentence, which will include a fine,” Assistant Principal Peter Deane said.
Ms Leibould said students who were convicted of sexual offending would also be eligible to take part in a counselling program, which would include online counselling.
“That’s what we’ve got to look at to make sure that our students are getting the support they need and that they don’t fall through the cracks,” she added.
“When we have a student who is sexually abused, that person is going to need support, and that support needs to be online and the students can use that to find support.”
The bill is expected to be passed into law in the next fortnight, and is likely to be used to prosecute offenders under the existing laws.
Topics:sexual-offences,sexual-health,sexualisation,sexualhealth-and-diseases-law,schools,government-and/or-politics,crime,australiaFirst posted April 06, 2019 11:20:51Contact Anna Smith