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The Age of Consent (Qld)

The age of consent is the age when a person can lawfully consent to sexual activity with another person. The age of consent varies between different states and territories. In Queensland, it is currently 16. This is the case regardless of the type of sexual activity and regardless of the sex or gender of the participants.

Age of consent in Queensland

Until 2016, Queensland’s age of consent was 16 for vaginal sex but 18 for anal sex. Queensland was the only state to have different legal ages of consent for different sexual acts. This was changed by the Queensland government in 2016 because the old system was felt to be discriminatory and based on outdated attitudes to same-sex sexual activity. The Criminal Code Act was also amended in 2016 to replace the word ‘sodomy’ with ‘anal intercourse.’

Unlike in other states, Queensland currently has no provision allowing for consensual sex between children under 16 where both are of a similar age. In other jurisdictions, such laws, sometimes called ‘Romeo and Juliette laws’ allow for mutual and consensual sexual relationships to exist between young people where both are under 16.

In Queensland, any sex involving a person aged below 16 is unlawful.

Sex with child below age of consent

In Queensland, it is an offence to have carnal knowledge of a child under 16 (Section 215, Criminal Code Act). Carnal knowledge is sexual penetration of any kind and to any extent. This section sets out different maximum penalties for carnal knowledge of children in different age brackets, with the harshest penalties relating to sexual acts with children under the age of 12, which carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

The Criminal Code Act also makes it an offence to engage in indecent treatment of a child below the age of consent (Section 210). This provision is broader than carnal knowledge as it includes sexual contact that does not include sexual penetration. It also covers exposing a child to pornography or to an indecent act between the accused and another person.

A range of provisions also exists relating to acts preparatory to sex with a child under 16. These offences include taking a child for an immoral purpose, using the internet to procure a child under 16 to engage in a sexual act, procuring a young person for carnal knowledge, and grooming a child under 16.

Defences to sex offences involving children below age of consent

Where a person is charged with a sexual offence against a child under 16 and the child was aged 12 or older, the accused may rely on the defence that they believed on reasonable grounds that the child was over 16.

In Queensland, unlike some other jurisdictions, an accused cannot rely on the defence that a child below the age of consent consented to sex. This is the case even if the child was 14 or 15 at the time of the alleged act.

Child Sex Offender Registers

In Queensland, The Child Protection (Offender Reporting) Act sets out which offenders found guilty of child sex offences must register on the Child Protection Offender Registry. Persons listed on this registry are required to keep police up to date with their residential details and inform police if they leave the state. They are also required to report to police annually.

Persons found guilty of serious child sex offences must register on the Child Protection Registry and remain on it for a designated period for the offence committed and whether they re-offended. However, under section 5(2)(b), a person found guilty of a single child sex offence who receives a non-custodial sentence are not required to register.

In 1997, the National Child Offender System was established. It records and manages details of all registered child sex offenders in Australia.

The Chief Executive of Corrective Services has the power to release details of sex offenders if it considers it is in the public interest to do so. This may occur when persons in the community need to know an offender’s accommodation or employment. Before a person can receive confidential information about an offender, they must sign a confidentiality agreement. If they do not sign it, they will receive only general information and not any information that identifies the offender.

If you require legal advice or representation in relating to the age of consent or in any other legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

Fernanda Dahlstrom

This article was written by Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Arts and a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice. She has also completed a Master’s in Writing and Literature. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory and in family law in Queensland.

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