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Sex With Child Under 16

The age of consent is the age when a young person can lawfully consent to sex. The age of consent is different in different states and territories. The age of consent in Queensland is 16. The age of consent in Queensland is now the same regardless of the type of sexual activity and regardless of the sex of the participants. When a person has sexual contact with a child under 16, this may result in a range of criminal charges.


Until 2016, Queensland was the only state to have different ages of consent for different sexual acts – the age of consent was 16 for vaginal sex but 18 for anal sex. The law was changed by the Queensland government in 2016 as the old system was generally considered discriminatory and based on outdated attitudes towards homosexuality. In 2016, the Criminal Code Act 1899  was amended to remove the word “sodomy”, which was replaced with the words “anal intercourse”.

Similar age

Unlike most other states, Queensland does not have a provision allowing for consensual sex between children under 16 where both persons are of a similar age. Such laws are sometimes called “Romeo and Juliet laws” and they exist to allow for mutual and consensual sexual relationships to exist between people under 16.

In Queensland, any sex that involves a person under 16 is unlawful.

Child sex offences 

There are various offences pertaining to sexual contact with children in Queensland.

Penile intercourse with a child

It is an offence under section 215 of the Criminal Code 1899 for a person to engage in penile intercourse with a child under 16. The provision sets out different maximum penalties for offences involving children of different ages, with the longest penalties applying to sexual acts with children below 12, which carries a maximum penalty of imprisonment for life.

Indecent treatment of a child

Under Section 210, it is an offence to treat a child under 16 indecently. This provision is broader than the offence of carnal knowledge as it includes sexual contact that does not include penetration. It also covers the exposure of a child under 16 to pornography or to an indecent act between the offender and another person.

Acts preparatory to sex with a child

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

Defences to child sex offences 

Where a person is charged with a sexual offence against a child who is over 12 but under 16, it is a defence if the accused believed on reasonable grounds that the child was over the age of 16.

In Queensland, unlike in some other states, it is not a defence if the child consented to sex. This is the case even if the child was 14 or 15 years old.

Sex Offender Registers

In Queensland, a person who is found guilty of specified child sex offences is required to register on the Child Protection Offender Registry. Offenders who are listed on this registry are required to keep police informed of their residential details and to notify police if they leave Queensland. They are also required to report to police every year.

The Child Protection (Offender Reporting and Offender Prohibition Order) Act 2004 sets out which offenders must register on the Child Protection Offender Registry. Persons found guilty of serious sex offences against children must register and remain on the registry for a period that varies depending on the offence committed and whether they have re-offended. However, a person found guilty of a single child sex offence who receives a non-custodial sentence is not required to register on the Child Protection Registry (Section 5(2)(b)).

The National Child Offender System, which has existed since 1997, records the details of all registered child sex offenders in Australia.

The details of sex offenders can be released by the Chief Executive of Corrective Services where it is in the public interest to do so. This may occur when individuals need to know about an offender’s accommodation or employment details. Before receiving confidential information about a child sex offender, a person must sign a confidentiality agreement. If they do not sign the confidentiality agreement, they will not receive any information that identifies the offender.

If you require legal advice or representation in any 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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