Sexual Assault / Aggravated Sexual Assault

Sex offences are most often committed without witnesses other than the victim. This can make it particularly difficult for an accused person to defend the allegations of a complainant. It is often the word of one person against the other and an accused person does not necessarily start on the same footing as the accuser.

Consent to a sexual act might be withdrawn. It is possible that a person having had consensual sex is the subject of a criminal allegation because the complainant is angry, vengeful, embarrassed or simply unhappy with the other person – after the event. In such circumstances, the accused person often has the weight of DNA evidence and medical evidence to confirm that a sexual act took place.

Another difficulty with criminal sex matters is that the complaint is sometimes not made until a very long time after the alleged incident, making it difficult for the accused person to present critical evidence.

As sexual assault is very serious offence it cannot be heard in the Local Court and must be finalised in the District/Supreme Court. The maximum penalty is imprisonment for 14 years.

If the offence of sexual assault takes place in a situation of aggravation, the maximum period of imprisonment is 20 years. Circumstances of aggravation include:

  • Prior to or following the offence, the infliction of actual bodily harm upon the alleged victim;

  • The threat to inflict actual bodily harm against the alleged victim;

  • The offence occurs in the company of other persons;

  • The alleged victim is under 16 years of age;

  • The alleged victim is under the authority of the alleged offender;

  • The alleged victim has serious physical disability;

  • The alleged victim has cognitive impairment;

  • The alleged offender breaks and enters a dwelling to commit the offence; or

  • The alleged offender deprives the alleged victim of his or her liberty for a period before or after the commission of the offence.

If the offence of sexual assault in circumstances of aggravation is committed in company with another, the maximum penalty is imprisonment for life.

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