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Rape law overhaul

Briefs

Cite as: December 2013 87 (12) LIJ, p.14

A review of Victoria’s sexual offence legislation is proposing an overhaul of rape laws, the introduction of new sexual offences and increased maximum sentences.

The government is canvassing community views on the proposals that are outlined in a 225-page Department of Justice consultation paper.

The paper proposes three options to clarify existing rape laws in cases where an accused argues they believed the alleged victim had consented.

The options include maintaining the current law; a guilty verdict being applicable to any case where a belief of consent is not based on reasonable grounds; or the creation of a new lesser offence to be called “sexual violation”.

LIV president Reynah Tang said the LIV supported sexual offence law reform and increases in maximum sentences for rape, sexual assault and sexual offences against children.

“However, this is a very complex area that needs careful consideration, particularly in relation to the ‘fault’ elements proposed by the Department of Justice, and we must ensure that the presumption of innocence remains paramount in cases where consent is an issue or we risk seeing an increase in appeals or wrongful convictions,” Mr Tang said.

Centre Against Sexual Assault (CASA) spokesperson Carolyn Worth welcomed the review and said it made sense to simplify jury directions in rape cases, which in turn could reduce successful appeals. But she said the prospect of a lesser charge to rape being introduced raised serious concerns, even if its purpose was to increase convictions.

CASA will make a submission to the review, which is receiving feedback until 20 December 2013. Visit www.justice.vic.gov.au for more information.

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