SA proposes new rape laws- Sydney Morning Herald artical

October 25, 2007 at 6:47 am (sexual assault laws)

October 25, 2007 – 4:32PM

Society must change how it defines rape and sexual assault, South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson says.

Announcing proposed changes to the state’s rape laws, Mr Atkinson said less than 20 per cent of rape and assault cases that reached the courts resulted in a conviction.

“So there may be something wrong with how we define what is a rape or a sexual assault,” he said.

“That’s unacceptable so we are changing it.”

The government’s proposed reforms would require a person’s agreement to sexual activity to be free and voluntary.

In a key change, a rape also would be committed in a situation where a person withdrew their consent after initially agreeing to sexual intercourse and the other party continued regardless.

Until now there has been a degree of ambiguity in how the courts viewed such circumstances.

The new laws also would regard sexual activity as non-consensual if obtained by force or threats, while the victim was asleep or unconscious, while the victim was too intoxicated to agree and if the victim was unable to understand the nature of the sexual activity.

They also would take in situations where the victim was mistaken about the identity of the person they were having sex with or if they were being unlawfully detained.

Judges would be required to explain to juries that consent to sexual activity should not be assumed just because the victim did not say anything, did not protest or resist or had previous consensual sexual encounters with the alleged offender.

In addition, the proposed changes would require courts to give priority to cases that involved sexual offences against young children.

SA Minister for the Status of Women Jennifer Rankine said the new laws would ensure the criminal justice system was more sensitive to the needs of victims of rape and sexual assault.

“I hope they’ll assist women who are victims of such callous crimes and will also offer further support and protection when giving evidence before a court, which can be a terrifying and harrowing experience,” she said.


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