Call now: 0411 586 543

Sex offences

Sexual offences in Queensland range from simple acts of sexual assault through to extremely serious charges of maintaining a sexual relationship with a child.  A conviction for a sex offence can have serious ramifications for a person including mandatory jail sentences and registration as a sex offender which comes with a range of restrictions to a person’s liberty.

If you or a loved one has been charged with a sex offence, you should contact us for a confidential cost and obligation free discussion about the situation and how Townes & Associates can help. 

Need a defence lawyer?

    Sex offences

    Chapter 22 and 32

    Queensland Criminal Code

    Sex offences in Queensland range from simple acts of public indecency and sexual assault through to serious charges carrying mandatory jail sentences and a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.  The essence of a sex offence in Queensland is the concept of ‘indecency’ which, while is has no legislated definition, is taken to mean anything which offends against the currently accepted standards of decency (meaning it has a temporal association – what was once indecent might not be indecent today and vice versa).

    Whether something is indecent, and therefore whether a sexual offence has been committed will depend almost entirely on the specifics of the conduct which is alleged by the Police.

    There are two mandatory penalties that apply to most sexual offences committed in relation to children; a mandatory period of actual custody and registration as a sex offender in Queensland and also federally.

    If you would like to know more about sex offences in Queensland select an offence below for more information.

    Sex offences in Queensland

    Select an offence from the tabs below for more information including the maximum penalty, common case examples and practical tips. Use the form at the bottom of this page, or the email link above, to get in touch if you have been charged with any of these offences.

    A charge laid under s.227 of the Queensland Criminal Code, doing an indecent act is an offence which is committed where a person wilfully and unlawfully does an indecent act in public, or simply with an intent to offend others.  The maximum penalty for doing an indecent act is 2 years imprisonment.

    Most commonly indecent acts are committed by a person revealing their genitalia, and/or masturbating, in a public place (such as in a fast food restaurant or at a bus stop) though it can also be committed in circumstances in which two people involve themselves in indecent (normally sexual) conduct in public.

    If the indecent act is directed toward, or even just exposed to, a child under 16 then the offence will attract a mandatory period of actual custody.

    If you would like to know more about indecent acts in Queensland use the tabs below to assist you.

    Indecent acts are often committed in the following ways:

    Public masturbation

    A person sits down in the outdoor eating area of a fast food restaurant and masturbates. Police attend, arrest the person and charge them with performing an indecent act in public.  If the offence was committed in the presence of children then the person should expect to spend 1-3 months inside jail, even if they are a first-time offender. If no children are exposed to the act, with the right preparation and argument, the person might avoid jail and be released on a suspended sentence or some form of conditional release (either parole or probation).

    Please note this example and penalty is an illustration only.  Every case is different and if you have been charged with an offence you should contact Townes & Associates for specific advice on your situation.

    A person is not guilty of doing an indecent act in public if what they were doing was not ‘indecent’ as measured against the currently accepted standards of decency.

    Doing an indecent act will be heard in the Magistrates Court.

    Be conscious that subsection 9(4) of the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992 applies to offences of doing an indecent act if a child is exposed to the relevant conduct (the common example is an act of masturbation in or near a school or bus stop frequented by children).

    There can, in some limited situations, be an argument mounted that the offence is not committed ‘in relation to’ a child (this is the test applied by subsection 9(4) but this is ordinarily only in cases in which the presence of a child could not reasonably have been expected and was totally incidental to the indecent act.

    A charge laid under s.352(1) of the Queensland Criminal Code, sexual assault is committed when a person unlawfully and indecently assaults another person or where they procure another person to commit or witness an act of gross indecency without their consent.  The maximum penalty for sexual assault in Queensland ranges between 10 years and life imprisonment depending on the circumstance in which it is committed.

    The things that aggravate a charge of sexual assault (meaning which make it more serious and increase the maximum penalty at law) are:

    • Bringing the genitals or anus of any person into contact with the mouth of another person,
    • Being armed or in the company of other people when committing the offence,
    • Penetrating the vagina, vulva or anus of another person with any object or thing that is not a penis,

    If you would like more information about sexual assault in Queensland use the tabs below to assist you.

    Sexual assault is often committed in the following ways:

    Touching on public transport

    A person is on a crowded commuter train and, while being pressed into close proximity to a fellow passenger uses their hand to deliberately stroke that person’s genitalia with their hand.  Assuming they are a first offender, this person should expect to receive some form of community based release, either a Probation or Community Service order or even a suspended term of imprisonment if the complainant is particularly vulnerable (for example a young female or a disabled person).

    Unwanted advances

    A person is at a party and they approach a fellow party-goer from behind, grabbing them on the buttocks and kissing them on the neck.  Assuming this fellow party-goer called the Police instead of appreciating the attention, the person should expect to be charged with sexual assault and, if they are guilty, to receive a penalty in the range of a Probation Order or suspended jail sentence (assuming they are a first offender with some features in mitigation).

    Please note these examples and penalties are illustrations only.  Every case is different and if you have been charged with an offence you should contact Townes & Associates for specific advice on your situation.

    A person is not guilty of sexual assault if their conduct was either not unlawful, or not indecent.  The lawfulness, in cases of sexual assault, normally amounts to ‘consensual’ meaning that they are not guilty of sexual assault if they engaged in the indecent act with the consent of the other person, or at least with the reasonable mistaken belief that the other person was consenting.

    A charge of sexual assault will be heard in either the Magistrates or the District Court at the defendant’s election and depending on the seriousness of the allegation.

    Be aware of the operation of subsection 9(4) of the Penalties & Sentences Act 1992 to charges of sexual assault in relation to children under 16.  The mandatory jail provisions can come into force without there being any specific particularisation in the charge of an offence against a child, so long as a child was exposed to the offending conduct.   This is commonly an issue where charges are based on an ‘indecent exposure’ (as in the case of an adult man masturbating in view of school aged girls).

    Also be cognisant of the fact that the client holds the election to have their matter heard before a District Court Jury if they intend to take it to trial and also that any allegation of a aggravated sexual assault must be dealt with on indictment (the defence election only applies to simpliciter charges involving a complainant who is older than 14).

    A charge laid under s.349(1) of the Queensland Criminal Code, rape is committed when a person has carnal knowledge of another person without their consent or when they penetrate another person’s mouth, anus or vagina with an object or part of their body that is not a penis without their consent. The maximum penalty for rape in Queensland is life imprisonment.

    Carnal knowledge is simply defined in the legislation as “penetration to any extent” and it is also defined to include anal intercourse. 

    There is something of an overlap between the most serious aggravated form of sexual assault and rape in so far as the same conduct (for example sexual penetration with an object) could give rise to either charge.  In practice, the charge of rape is normally preferred by Police and prosecuting authorities in these more serious situations.

    If you would like more information about rape, use the tabs below to assist you.

    If you would like to know more about assault occasioning bodily harm in Queensland use the tabs below to assist you.

    Rape is often committed in the following ways:

    Drunk at a party

    A person comes upon a drunken individual, passed out on a couch in a spare room at a houseparty.  Seeing that the individual is unconscious the person removes their pants and, in the case of a female commences to have vaginal or anal sex with her, or in the case of a male either commences anal intercourse or fellatio.  Once the conduct comes to light the police are informed and the person is charged with rape.  Assuming they are a youthful first offender the person might expect to spend 9-12 months inside jail before being released on some form of conditional release.  

    Please note these examples and penalties are illustrations only.  Every case is different and if you have been charged with an offence you should contact Townes & Associates for specific advice on your situation.

    A person is not guilty of rape if they either did not engage in a penetrative sexual act or if they did so with the other person’s consent.  It is a defence to a charge of rape if a person had a reasonable, even if mistaken, belief that the other person was consenting to whatever was done.

    Rape will be heard in the District Court.

    A charge laid under s.210 of the Queensland Criminal Code, indecent treatment of a child is committed when a person indecently deals with a child (including procuring the child to perform an indecent act) or wilfully exposes a child to an indecent act or indecent material.  The maximum penalty for indecent treatment of a child is between 14 years and 20 years imprisonment depending on the age and circumstances of the child.

    The most serious version of an indecent treatment charge occurs when the child complainant is aged under 12, is a lineal descendant of the defendant or if the child suffers from a mental impairment.  In each of these situations the offence carries the maximum 20 years imprisonment.

    If the complainant child is aged under 16 but over 12 then the maximum penalty is 14 years imprisonment.

    ‘Dealing with’ a child, for the purpose of this offence means doing anything which, if it were done to an adult, would constitute an offence of assault.  This, in simpler terms, means touching, striking, moving, or otherwise applying force to a child without their consent (and, for the offence to be proved, in an indecent way).

    The law in Queensland requires that a person who is guilty of indecent treatment of a child serve a period of actual time inside jail unless there are ‘exceptional circumstances’ justifying a non-custodial penalty.

    If you would like to know more about indecent treatment of children use the tabs below to assist you.

    A person is not guilty of indecent treatment of a child if they either did not engage in the conduct alleged or, if they did, the conduct was not ‘indecent’.  In cases involving very young children it is sometimes possible to challenge the reliability of their recollection of events (because young children are susceptible to flights of imagination and fancy) though extreme caution should be exercised, and professional advice sought, before this course is adopted because the consequences for cross-examining a young child without basis can be severe in terms of the final calculation of penalty.

    It should be noted that if you are charged with indecent treatment of a child and you wish to plead not guilty, but represent yourself, you will not be permitted to cross-examine the complainant yourself.  This rule will inevitably lead to a thicket of logistical difficulties for your case so we strongly advise you to seek legal representation if you wish to undertake this course.

    A charge of indecent treatment of a child will be heard in the District Court.

    A child, no matter how young, is competent to give evidence pursuant to s.9 of the Evidence Act 1977 but this presumption can, in some cases, be rebutted where a child is very young.  Such an argument is cause for a pre-trial application pursuant to s.590AA of the Queensland Criminal Code but it should be approached with caution because the balance of consideration normally falls on the side of allowing a child witness to be called.

    The evidence of a child witness will be pre-recorded and will be taken by video-link and their initial statement given to Police will normally be played to a jury in a trial.  These observations are made simply to suggest that Counsel who are expert in the conduct of child sex cases should be retained if there is to be a trial in such a case.

    Sentencing for indecent treatment charges always involves consideration of subsection 9(4) of the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992.  In practice this normally means that, where there is any prospect of avoiding actual time, it is because there exist some exceptional circumstances which justify a non-custodial penalty.

    Some exceptional circumstances which are relevant to the consideration are, the closeness in age between the offender and the child, the seriousness of the indecent conduct, the persistence or otherwise of the offending. R v M [2003] QCA 556 is a helpful decision with respect to the cases in which a non-custodial penalty for child-sex offences might be appropriate (M’s was not such a case).

    A charge laid under s.229B of the Queensland Criminal Code, maintaining a sexual relationship with a child is one of the most serious sexual offences under Queensland law and it is committed where a person engages in more than 1 unlawful sexual act with a child over any period of time.  The maximum penalty for maintaining a sexual relationship with a child is life imprisonment.

    The prosecution will often lay a charge of ‘maintaining’ in addition to one or more individual charges for discrete offences, such an indecent treatment of a child or rape.  This is a permissible practice under the law.

    The law in Queensland requires that a person who is guilty of maintaining a sexual relationship with a child serves a period of actual time inside jail unless there are ‘exceptional circumstances’ justifying a non-custodial penalty.

    If you would like to know more about the offence of maintaining a sexual relationship with a child in Queensland use the tabs below to assist you.

    A person is not guilty of maintaining a sexual relationship with a child if, at the time of the relevant sexual acts, they were of the reasonable belief that the child was at least 16 (providing the child is, in reality, over the age of 12, this defence does not apply if the child is under 12).

    A charge of maintaining a sexual relationship with a child will be heard in the District Court.

    A child, no matter how young, is competent to give evidence pursuant to s.9 of the Evidence Act 1977 but this presumption can, in some cases, be rebutted where a child is very young.  Such an argument is cause for a pre-trial application pursuant to s.590AA of the Queensland Criminal Code but it should be approached with caution because the balance of consideration normally falls on the side of allowing a child witness to be called.

    The evidence of a child witness will be pre-recorded and will be taken by video-link and their initial statement given to Police will normally be played to a jury in a trial.  These observations are made simply to suggest that Counsel who are expert in the conduct of child sex cases should be retained if there is to be a trial in such a case.

    Sentencing for maintaining charges always involves consideration of subsection 9(4) of the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992.  In practice this normally means that, where there is any prospect of avoiding actual time, it is because there exist some exceptional circumstances which justify a non-custodial penalty.

    Some exceptional circumstances which are relevant to the consideration are, the closeness in age between the offender and the child, the seriousness of the indecent conduct, the persistence or otherwise of the offending. R v M [2003] QCA 556 is a helpful decision with respect to the cases in which a non-custodial penalty for child-sex offences might be appropriate though it relates to charges of indecent treatment, as opposed to maintaining.

    Facing charges?

    If you or a loved one has been charged with a sex offence, you should contact Townes & Associates for a confidential, cost and obligation free discussion about the situation and how we can help.  Use the form below to get in touch, leave your best contact telephone number and we will give you call back at no cost to you.

      Close Menu