Sexual Offences

Sexual offences can refer to a broad range of sexual behaviours that make a person feel uncomfortable, threatened or frightened. Some examples include rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment.

These offences are often perpetrated by someone known to and trusted by the victim. Sexual offending can occur anywhere from the family home to institutional settings (such as a school, club or disability service). A sexual offence may be experienced as a one-off incident or repeatedly over a longer period.

Sexual Assault

According to Australian law, the age for sexual consent is 16 years. Sexual intercourse is lawful if each party consents. Sex with no consent is a crime.

Consent is when a person voluntarily and freely agrees to participate. It can be expressed or verbal by conduct.

Drug-facilitated sexual assault is the administration of a drug that makes a victim helpless or unconscious to the point that he/she cannot consent or withdraw consent during sexual intercourse or any sexual conduct. It may also cause the victim to not remember the incident, yet leave him/her with a sense of feeling violated.

Drug facilitated sexual assault offences carry the same penalties as rape. This is because a victim intoxicated from alcohol or drugs may be considered incapable of giving consent.

Common drugs used in drug-facilitated sexual assaults are related to the abuse of prohibited drugs, which reduces a person’s inhibitions that can lead to incapacitation.

Penalties for sexual assault without consent range from 14-years to life imprisonment, depending on the type of sexual assault.

Sexual Touching

Inappropriate touching is a crime carrying heavy penalties.

Examples of indecent assault or a sexual touching offence includes rubbing your genital area against another person’s body without consent or touching the genital area of another person without consent.

Sexual harassment allegations can be referred to the police.

Sexually touching another person without consent carries penalties that range from 2 to 7 years imprisonment, depending on the type of charge.

Generally, a sexual offence is characterised by a lack of consent to a sexual act or acts.

Sexual Act

A sexual act is an offence as stipulated by s 61KE of the Crimes Act 1900. A sexual act is a sexual act that is considered ‘sexual’ by a reasonable person and includes acts other than sexual touching. The maximum penalty for engaging in a sexual act is 18 months of incarceration.

To convict an individual of engaging in a sexual act, the prosecution must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • The individual carried out a sexual act or incited a third person to do so or incited the victim to carry out a sexual act
  • The victim did not consent
  • The individual knew no consent was given or was reckless as to whether consent was present

If you choose to plead guilty, it can significantly improve your chances at avoiding a criminal record on sentence with a Section 10 non-conviction.

False Accusations

People may make false accusations for financial reasons, to seek revenge against former partners, to bolster family law proceedings, and possibly even to gain sympathy.

Some can result from resurfacing trauma or false memories, or they may simply be a cry for help and attention during a difficult time.

False accusations are an offence punishable by up to seven years’ imprisonment.

If the complainant swore a statement under oath or testified in court, they may be prosecuted for the offence of perjury which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment.

A person is guilty of perjury if it is proven they:

  1. Made a false statement under oath,
  2. It was made in, or in connection with, judicial proceedings,
  3. The maker knew the statement was false or did not believe it was true at the time it was made, and
  4. It concerned a matter which was material to those proceedings,

The maximum penalty for perjury increases to 14 years where the complainant committed the act with the intention to obtain the conviction or acquittal of a person for a serious indictable offence.

Child Sex Offences

Depending on the type of child sex offence, the penalties for child sex offences vary from 2 years to life imprisonment.

A child sex conviction stays on your record for life and impacts your working with children check clearance, your career and puts you on the sex offender registry in Australia. The NSW sex offender registry imposes burdensome compliance obligations.

Common child sex offences include child grooming, sexual acts with or towards a child, sexually touching a child, sexual intercourse with a child and child abuse material.

Upskirting And Filming Someone Without Consent In Australia

Filming someone engaged in a private act without consent or filming a person’s private parts is a crime. Laws on using or taking photos without permission or filming in public places in Australia carry heavy penalties ranging from 2 to 5 years imprisonment, depending on the type of charge.

This is a ‘summary offence’, which means the Local Court will deal with it unless the offence is ‘aggravated’.

Revenge Porn Law & Sextortion Offences & Image Based Abuse

Revenge porn in NSW is known as the offence of sending or recording intimate images without consent. Revenge pornography is a form of domestic violence abuse, and it is called ‘sextortion’ where an offender uses it to blackmail and gain power.

Revenge porn cases often involve receiving an intimate image from the victim voluntarily. However, it does not amount to consent for its distribution.

The penalties range from 2 to 3 years imprisonment, depending on the type of charge.

Sexting Laws NSW

Sending private sexual material without consent using a carriage service, like a smartphone or computer, is a crime.

This offence is commonly prosecuted by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP) and often occurs in a domestic relationship. It is a form of domestic abuse.

Laws on sexting in Australia carry penalties of up to 5 years imprisonment.

Voyeurism Offences

Voyeurism sex is the offence of watching someone, without consent, performing a private act for your sexual arousal while you know there is no consent. Voyeurism laws carry penalties ranging from 2 to 5 years imprisonment, depending on the type of charge.

Sexual Servitude Offences | Sexual Slavery | Human Trafficking Australia

Sexual servitude is often referred to as human trafficking and slavery. It is when a person provides sexual services, and because of threats or use of force, that person isn’t free to stop or leave. Depending on the type of charge, the penalties range from 10 to 15 years imprisonment.

Sexual servitude cases and human trafficking cases include threats to deport or use force.


Incest laws impose heavy penalties for committing the crime of having or trying to have sex with a close family member. The penalty for this carries up to 8 years imprisonment. Consent is not included as a defence.


Defences commonly raised to charges of sexual offences include:

  • Consent (not available as a defence if the complainant is under 16, intellectually disabled or can not give consent)
  • Proper medical purpose
  • Duress: You were intimidated or threatened to commit sexual offence

Aggravating factors in sexual assault

The prosecution must prove at least one ‘circumstance of aggravation’ in addition to the elements of ‘sexual assault.’ A circumstance of aggravation is an additional factor which makes the offence more serious.

‘Circumstances of aggravation’

The 9 ‘circumstances of aggravation’ relating to sexual assault are listed in the dropdowns below.

Actual bodily harm refers to harm that has a lasting impact. It does not have to be permanent.

Threats to use a weapon can include verbal and physical threats.

‘Weapons’ or ‘instruments’ refers to a wide range of objects, including guns, knives, syringes, baseball bats and so on.

The court will look at the threat from the perspective of the victim so that a ‘threat’ can be made out even if the weapon could not actually cause harm.

The prosecution needs to show that there was at least one other person physically present at the time of the offence, and that they shared a common purpose with you.

The court will consider the effect of the group as a whole in intimidating the complainant or committing the act.

It is not enough to show that the other person participated in the offence without being physically present.

This is where the complainant was under your care, authority or supervision.

Where the complainant had ‘below-average intellectual function,’ this is referred to as ‘cognitive impairment’ which means that they required assistance and supervision with daily activities.

A ‘serious physical disability’ refers to a defect or physical impairment which may arise from a condition or accident at birth and affects the complainant’s quality of life.

The prosecution needs to prove that you committed a ‘break and enter’ with the intention to commit the offence or another serious offence.

This involves detaining or confining someone against their will.