Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Amanda Vanstone, today released Sexual Offences Against the Person a report
from the Model Criminal Code Officers Committee of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General.
The Model Criminal Code discussion paper on sexual offences was released in August 1996 and followed by extensive
nationwide consultation, including public seminars in each State and Territory.
The report Sexual Offences Against the Person was prepared after this consultation and forms part of the Model Criminal
Code Project, which aims to ensure greater uniformity in criminal law across Australia. Earlier papers dealt with other
non-fatal violence offences such as assault, abduction and stalking; slavery and fatal offences such as murder and
"The criminal law often raises moral issues because it is about what types of behaviour society is prepared to condone,
and what types of behaviour we find unacceptable." Senator Vanstone said.
"Sexual offences cannot be left out of the model criminal code, and this means that we must confront some difficult
"The Model Criminal Code proposes clear and precise offences which are intended to provide a foundation for consistent
laws throughout Australia. At the moment the law in relation to sexual offences varies markedly from State to State.
"The key sexual offences outlined in the report include unlawful sexual penetration, the Model Criminal Code offence
which covers rape, and the offences of compelling sexual penetration, indecent touching and compelling indecent
"The Committee has given particular attention to sexual offences against children and sexual offences against young
people by persons in a position of trust.
"The Model Criminal Code incorporates a maximum sentence of 25 years imprisonment for the sexual penetration of a young
"To ensure that offenders can be prosecuted where a child, or an adult who was abused as a child, cannot remember the
precise time of an offence, the Model Criminal Code incorporates an offence of persistent sexual abuse of a child. This
offence also carries a maximum sentence of 25 years imprisonment.
"After consultations, the Committee has also included a new offence in the Model Criminal Code which covers offences
committed against a young person by someone who is in a position of authority. This offence covers circumstances where
someone misuses a position to authority to obtain consent from a young person who is over the age of consent.
The age of consent
"The Committee's consultations have shown that there is no community consensus on the appropriate age of consent for
"The Committee's report points out that it would be desirable to have a uniform age of consent across the States and
Territories and that one age of consent should apply to straight, gay and lesbian sex. However, the report makes no
recommendation on the age of consent which should be adopted by the States and Territories.
"The Committee recognises that the age of consent is a moral issue as well as a legal issue, and the committee does not
claim expertise with regard to morality.
"I emphasise that the Commonwealth will not support any measure which results in a lowering of the age of consent for
"After consultations, the Committee has included an offence of incest in the Model Criminal Code.
"Originally the Committee thought that this behaviour would be covered by the offences which relate to children.
However, the report recognises that there is a need to ensure that the law is clear on this point, and that the offences
in the Model Criminal Code apply to where the 'consent' of a young adult is corrupted by longstanding abuse by a family
Sexual offences counselling immunity:
"The report released today also responds to consultations on provisions relating to sexual offences counselling
"The Model Criminal Code provisions provide that counselling communications are generally immune from disclosure in
court. The model procedures limit trial access to these records to cases where it is absolutely necessary for a fair
trial. For example, where the rape allegations are primarily based on a repressed memory revealed to a counsellor, proof
of the allegations will often not be possible without disclosing details of what happened at counselling.
Still for Discussion:
"While the paper is the final report on these important issues from the Model Criminal Code Officers Committee, all
Ministers will be briefed on any comments made in response to the report before considering whether the Model Criminal
Code provisions should be included in State and Territory laws.
"I stress that the report does not express the views of the Commonwealth, State or Territory Governments or individual
Attorneys-General. The report has been prepared by officials in recognition that people will comment further on the
recommendations before any action is taken by governments."