reposted from a story by MATT SMITH | May 14, 2013 12.00am
TASMANIANS will no longer be able to use mistaken age as a defence for having sex with children aged 12 and under if legislation is passed by State Parliament.
Attorney General Brian Wightman will introduce the legislation next week after receiving Cabinet approval yesterday.
The Government ordered a review into the crime of sexual intercourse with a young person following the prostitution of a 12-year-old Hobart girl in 2009.
Under the current criminal code, if someone is charged with having sex with a person younger than 17, they can argue that “on reasonable grounds” they believed the child was of legal age.
The proposed no-defence age will mean defendants will not be able to use the argument that they did not realise the person was underage, if the child is aged 12 or under.
Mr Wightman said legislation would also be introduced making Tasmania the first state in Australia to require that before an accused could rely on the defence of mistake as to age, they must show they took all reasonable steps to ascertain the age of the young person against whom they committed the sexual offence.
Mr Wightman said the amendments would create greater consistency by making the onus of proof consistent in relation to all sexual offences against young people.
“In line with the traditional approach, the onus of proof in all cases will be on the prosecution,” Mr Wightman said.
The Bill will also strengthen the charge of maintaining a sexual relationship with a young person that requires the proof of three separate sexual offences, by allowing prosecutors to take into account interstate offences.
“The law will be clarified and strengthened by these changes,” Mr Wightman said. “These legislative changes will ensure that Tasmania’s children and young persons are afforded the protections they deserve and send a clear message that sexual abuse of children and young persons is simply unacceptable.”
The no-defence law is in contrast to a Tasmanian Law Reform Institute report that recommended against such a move.
However, the report did recommend tighter restrictions on the legal defence of “making a mistake”.