Indecent Treatment of a Child Under 16 - Charges, Penalties and Sentencing in QLD

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This article was written by Michelle Makela - Legal Practice Director

Michelle has over 15 years experience in the legal industry, working across commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning.  Michelle has been involved in all practice areas of the firm and in her personal practice has had experience in litigation at all levels (State and Federal Industrial Tribunals, the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, the Federal Court, Federal...

Indecent Treatment of a Child under 16


Indecent treatment of a child under 16 is a serious crime and offenders are liable for imprisonment, even for first offences.

Indecent treatment of a child under 16, also called “indecent treatment”, is created by subsection 210 of the Criminal Code Act 1899 which provides that:

“Any person who —

  • unlawfully and indecently deals with a child under the age of 16 years; or
  • unlawfully procures a child under the age of 16 years to commit an indecent act; or
  • unlawfully permits himself or herself to be indecently dealt with by a child under the age of 16 years; or
  • wilfully and unlawfully exposes a child under the age of 16 years to an indecent act by the offender or any other person; or
  • without legitimate reason, wilfully exposes a child under the age of 16 years to any indecent object or any indecent film, videotape, audiotape, picture, photograph or printed or written matter; or
  • without legitimate reason, takes any indecent photograph or records, by means of any device, any indecent visual image of a child under the age of 16 years;

is guilty of an indictable offence.”

If the child is aged 12 or older, the offender faces 14 years’ jail. If the child is aged under 12, the term is 20 years. A 20-year jail term also applies if the offender is directly related to or the guardian of the child, or if the child is mentally impaired.

What Actions Might Constitute Indecent Treatment?

The offence of indecent treatment is commonly committed by an adult performing overtly sexual acts with, or in the presence of, a child. If the indecent act involves penetration a charge of rape is often laid so, in broad terms, it is correct to say that indecent treatment is constituted by any sexual interaction with a child which does not involve penetration.

Indecent treatment often involves non-penetrative touching of a child’s genitals by an adult, or coercing or forcing a child to touch the genitals of an adult. It is also commonly committed by an adult showing a child their genitals or pornographic material or coercing a child to show their genitals.

What the Police Must Prove

To convict you of indecent treatment is must be proved that you indecently dealt with a child, or procured that child to indecently deal with you,  and that the child was under 16 at the time. For certain offences, it may also be necessary to prove the child was your lineal descendant or under your care at the time of the alleged offence.

Possible Defences to Indecent Treatment

As with all criminal charges, there is a default “defence” to a charge of indecent treatment where the prosecution evidence fails to prove all the elements of the offence beyond a reasonable doubt.

Additionally, the Act provides that it is a defence to a charge of indecent treatment (if the offence is alleged to have been committed against a child over the age of 12) if a person can prove that they reasonably believed the child was over the age of 16 at the time of the offending conduct.

Which Court Will Hear Your Matter?

A charge of indecent treatment will be heard and determined in the District Court.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

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