Have you been charged with a sexual offence in Queensland?

Get a lawyer who has helped numerous people to succeed in complex and difficult cases across Queensland.

Have you been charged with a sexual offence in Queensland?

Get a lawyer who has helped numerous people to succeed in complex and difficult cases across Queensland.

How this firm can help you achieve justice

How this firm can help you achieve justice

Andrew Anderson, Legal Director, is an award-winning lawyer who is independently recommended as being among the leading criminal defence lawyers in Queensland.
Having successfully represented litigants in the High Court of Australia, Queensland Court of Appeal, Royal Commissions and multiple other courts dealing with trials and other hearings, Andrew Anderson understands how to succeed in complex and difficult cases.
Andrew Anderson has worked as a Principal Crown Prosecutor in Queensland and barrister in private practice at 8 Petrie Terrace Chambers in Brisbane. His depth of courtroom advocacy experience ranges from simple cases right through to complex homicide trials and appeals.
Anderson Legal is a law firm that is dedicated to the best ideals of the legal profession. Seeking to exceed client expectations and fighting for justice is an everyday pursuit.

Learn more about sexual offences

1. Specific sexual offences in Queensland

In Queensland, charges relating to sexual offences are treated as being amongst the most serious types of offences that may be committed. Over recent decades, laws against sexual offending have been gradually strengthened, certain rules of evidence relaxed, and the penalties increased.

Distributing Child Exploitation Material Charges

Distributing child exploitation material is an offence under section 228C of the Criminal Code (Qld), carrying a maximum penalty of either 20 years imprisonment or 14 years imprisonment, depending on the circumstances of the charge.

The definition of the word ‘distribute’ is given a wide meaning in section 207A of the Criminal Code (Qld), signalling an intent to capture within the offence any conduct that relates to communicating or making available child exploitation material. The definition even incorporates attempts to distribute. Distributing child exploitation material charges are regarded as serious offences in Queensland and often result in actual jail time for first-time offenders.

Indecent Treatment of a Child Under 16 Charges

Indecent treatment of a child under 16 is an offence under section 210 of the Criminal Code (Qld), carrying a maximum penalty of either 20 years imprisonment or 14 years imprisonment, depending on the circumstances of the charge.

The offence of indecent treatment of a child under 16 may be charged in a number of different ways, reflecting a determination to criminalise any unlawful and indecent acts or exposure to indecent acts, objects and recordings. In Queensland, sentencing principles have developed that mean that people convicted of indecent treatment of a child under 16 charges generally are punished by actual imprisonment save in exceptional circumstances.

Maintaining Unlawful Sexual Relationship Charges

Maintaining a sexual relationship with a child is an offence that is punishable by life imprisonment in Queensland. The charge targets unlawful sexual relationships involving more than one unlawful sexual act over any period.

Section 229B of the Criminal Code (Qld) makes maintaining a sexual relationship with a child an offence in Queensland. The charge generally results in lengthy terms of imprisonment. It is not uncommon for charges of maintaining a sexual relationship with a child to also be declared a ‘serious violent offence’, which has the effect of an offender not being eligible for parole before 80% of the sentence is served. 

Possessing Child Exploitation Material Charges

Possessing child exploitation material is an offence under section 228D of the Criminal Code (Qld) in Queensland, carrying a maximum penalty of either 20 years imprisonment or 14 years imprisonment, depending on the circumstances of the charge.

The charge under section 228D of the Criminal Code (Qld) targets a person who ‘knowingly possesses child exploitation material’. The Commonwealth Criminal Code creates separate offences relating to using the internet (carriage service) to access child exploitation material. The laws and associated maximum penalties for offences of this nature have been strengthened over time, reflecting a focus on increasing the penalties for such offences.

Rape Charges

Rape is an offence in Queensland that is punishable by penalties up to life imprisonment. There have been significant amendments to rape laws in Queensland over several decades, including amendments made in 2021.

Rape charges in Queensland essentially concern penetrative sexual acts done without consent. Consent must be freely and voluntarily given. The law has been interpreted to require both ‘consent’ as a state of mind as well as it being ‘given’. Consent is generally given through the representation of words or actions, although in the context of relationships it may also be evaluated against a pattern of past behaviour.

Sexual Assault Charges

Sexual assault (also referred to as indecent assault) is an offence under section 352 of the Criminal Code (Qld) in Queensland, carrying a maximum penalty of either 14 years imprisonment or 10 years imprisonment, depending on the circumstances of the charge.

The essence of a sexual assault charge is that (1) the defendant assaults the complainant, and (2) the assault was unlawful, and (3) the assault was indecent. In some cases, additional circumstances may be proved that increase the maximum penalty from 10 to 14 years imprisonment. The word ‘indecent’ bears its ordinary everyday meaning and is essentially determined as being what the community regards as indecent.

Unlawful Carnal Knowledge Charges

Unlawful carnal knowledge charges in Queensland are prosecuted under section 215 of the Criminal Code (Qld). The maximum penalty for the offence ranges from between 14 years to life imprisonment depending on the circumstances proved.

For a charge of unlawful carnal knowledge in Queensland, the prosecution must prove that (1) the person had carnal knowledge of a child, and (2) it was unlawful, and (3) the child was under 16. For a charge of unlawful carnal knowledge, consent is irrelevant. Offences of this kind, particularly in cases where circumstances of aggravation are proved by the prosecution, generally result in lengthy periods of actual custody.

2. Common issues with sexual offences

If you are facing an allegation relating to a sexual offence, getting informed about the common issues that arise with sexual offences might be crucial to avoiding injustice.

Below is a list of common issues that people confront when defending charges involving sexual offences in Queensland. While the information about each issue has been created to help people seeking to learn more about common issues relating to sexual offence charges, it cannot – and is not meant to – substitute legal consultation. To get tailored advice about an issue that may be raised in a specific case, contact Anderson Legal.

In reforms that became law on 7 April 2021, Queensland Parliament amended aspects of consent laws as they apply to sexual offences. The amendments came in response to community concerns about the availability and operation of the mistake of fact defence in case of rape, sexual assault and other sexual offences. The amended laws are designed to make aspects of consent laws clearer for juries that may consider these issues in criminal trials.

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Dangerous Prisoners (Sexual Offenders) Act (Qld)

The Dangerous Prisoners (Sexual Offenders) Act (Qld) allows the continued detention in custody or supervised release of prisoners who have been convicted of sexual offences and are considered a serious danger to the community.

The Dangerous Prisoners (Sexual Offenders) Act (Qld) applies to people convicted of serious sexual offences. The law may apply to an offence of a sexual nature, whether committed in Queensland or outside Queensland, which involves violence or was committed against a child. The Supreme Court of Queensland is required to determine if a prisoner would be a ‘serious danger to the community’ if released.

False Accusations Involving Sexual Offences

Being wrongly or falsely accused of a sexual offence may be a rare event, it brings no comfort to those accused to know it may be rare. Getting early and tailored advice from a criminal lawyer may be the difference between being charged or convicted.

In Queensland, the way the laws of evidence and criminal procedure operates for sexual offences differs to other charges. For that reason, it is important for anybody who may be wrongly or falsely accused of a sexual offence to understand early the particular challenges that may be encountered in defending a charge of this kind. Contact this firm for advice and representation if you are concerned an accusation made against you may lead to injustice.

Rules of Evidence – Sexual Offences

The Evidence Act (Qld), Justices Act (Qld), and the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act (Qld) all contain special rules of evidence for sexual offences, particularly with respect to child witnesses.

In Queensland, there have been important modifications to the laws of evidence relating to sexual offences over time, including dispensing with the need for corroboration, allowing certain hearsay evidence, as well as changing the manner in which complainants and witnesses may give evidence in a proceeding. The rules of evidence as they relate to sexual offences can significantly affect the defence to a charge of a sexual nature.

Use of psychological and psychiatric reports

The use of psychological and psychiatric reports in the criminal justice system is ever increasing due to the importance courts place on such evidence. For sexual offences, the use of such reports can be critical to a just outcome.

The Criminal Code (Qld), Mental Health Act (Qld), Dangerous Prisoners (Sexual Offenders) Act (Qld) and the Penalties and Sentences Act (Qld) all contain laws that are relevant to cognitive and mental health issues that may impact the assessment of issues associated with sexual offences. Understanding how psychological and psychiatrist reports may be used as part of the criminal justice process is essential for anybody facing a charge of a sexual nature.

3. Possible consequences if charged or convicted

For anybody charged or convicted of a sexual offence, there can be consequences beyond what occurs within the criminal justice system. For many people, the potentially far-reaching effects from a charge or conviction for sexual offences can come as a shock, which underscores why early advice from an experienced lawyer can be crucial to the outcomes that eventuate.

Adverse Publicity

For many people accused of a criminal offence, inaccurate or sensationalist reporting of the allegations is deeply troubling. Steps can be taken to mitigate the prejudice that can arise from adverse publicity to ensure a fair hearing.

While many journalists seek to adhere to high standards when reporting on criminal allegations, it can be important for anybody accused or convicted of a criminal offence to understand their legal options if their case is unfairly or improperly jeopardised by adverse publicity. Adverse media publicity can prejudice the fairness of a criminal trial, so it is important that people facing criminal allegations understand their rights when dealing with adverse publicity.

Character, Safety & Security Clearances

There are many occupations, jobs or roles that require character, safety and security clearances. A criminal history, and, in some instances, mere criminal allegations, can adversely affect assessments for character, safety and security clearances.

In Queensland, certain occupations are regulated by professional or trade bodies that can take disciplinary action following a criminal allegation or conviction arising. It is important to understand how a criminal law issue may affect other areas of life, such as employment prospects, recreational activities, insurance claims and other issues. This firm provides advice to its clients about the possible steps that can be taken to mitigate issues of this kind.

Character Tests – Citizenship / Visa Issues

The Australian Citizenship Act (Cth) and Migration Act (Cth) both contain character tests that can affect the eligibility for a person to become or remain a citizen or visa holder in Australia. Having a criminal history can be a decisive factor.

For citizens of another country who seek citizenship in Australia, a good character test can apply to the assessment of a citizenship application. Outstanding or finalised criminal charges (and even allegations falling short of criminal charges) can impact the assessment of the ‘good character’ test. The Migration Act (Cth) sets out the way a criminal history can lead to the refusal or cancellation of visas.

Employment Issues

Many people do not realise that employers can take action – such as suspension or dismissal – against an employee accused of a criminal offence. In some cases, such disciplinary action may be taken even if the conduct occurred outside of work.

Being accused of a criminal offence of itself is confronting enough for most people, however losing your career and livelihood even before the offence is proved can create additional burdens. Anderson Legal has the expertise to guide its clients through the employment law issues that can arise from criminal allegations, including what steps may be taken to ensure employment is not unnecessarily ended by an employer.

Recording of Convictions

In Queensland, the Penalties and Sentences Act (Qld) gives the court a discretion to not record a conviction, despite the person being found guilty or having pleaded guilty to an offence. The recording of a conviction can have significant consequences.

Section 12 of the Penalties and Sentences Act (Qld) gives the court a general discretion to record or not record a conviction. Courts are required to take account of all relevant circumstances, such as the nature of the offence, the offender’s character and age, as well as the impact the recording of a conviction will have on them. For some sentences, such as those involving imprisonment or a breach of court orders, a court may be required to record a conviction.

Sentencing for Sexual Offences

In Queensland, the Penalties and Sentences Act (Qld) requires courts to consider specific issues for adults being sentenced for sexual offences committed in relation to a child under 16 years. It modifies general sentencing principles in Queensland.

Courts imposing sentences for offences of a sexual nature committed against a child under 16 years must have primary regard to a range of considerations relating to the effect an offence has had on any victim, the risk of harm created by the offender, as well as the need to protect the community from that risk (among other things). It is also made a principle that for offences of this kind, actual imprisonment must be ordered unless there are exceptional circumstances.

Sentencing for Child Exploitation Material Cases

The Penalties and Sentences Act (Qld) requires courts to consider specific issues for adults being sentenced for charges relating to child exploitation material. Importantly, the principle that imprisonment is imposed as a last resort does not apply.

Courts imposing sentences for child exploitation material charges must have primary regard to a range of considerations, including the nature of the material relevant to the case, the need to deter others from similar crimes to protect children, as well as the prospects of rehabilitation for the offender. Understanding these issues is critical for anybody seeking to understand the laws relating to child exploitation material charges.

Serious Violent Offence Declarations

The ‘serious violent offence’ regime can have a significant impact to a sentence. The effect of an offence being declared a ‘serious violent offence’ is the offender must serve at least 80% of their term of imprisonment before they are eligible for release.

In Queensland, a person may have their offence declared a ‘serious violent offence’ under Part 9A of the Penalties and Sentences Act (Qld). There are many offences under Queensland law that may have such declarations made, including most serious violent offences, a number of sexual offences, as well as other crimes such as trafficking in a dangerous drug. Depending on the length of the sentence, a declaration may be imposed automatically or by discretion.

Do you need personalised legal advice or representation about a sexual offence in Queensland?

If you are facing allegations involving crimes of a sexual nature, obtaining early and authoritative advice is essential to protecting your rights and legal interests. Andrew Anderson has demonstrated experience in successfully preparing and conducting trials, sentences and appeals for sexual offences before all courts in Queensland.

If you need to contact Anderson Legal, you can call the firm on (07) 3505 7070. Alternatively, you can complete our form and we will try to contact you.

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