HOW THE CRIMINAL PROCESS STARTS FOR A SEXUAL OFFENCE
If police charge you with a sexual offence someone has made a complaint to the police. The person who made the complaint may not even be the alleged victim. The law says some persons must report allegations of sexual offences to the police.
When a complaint about a sexual offence is made to the police, a police officer will investigate the alleged offence. As part of the investigation, police will speak to the alleged victim to find out what they say. They will ask the victim about what they say happened, where and when the alleged sexual offence happened. Police will find out if there are any witnesses, and if the alleged offender and victim are known to each other. In some situations, the alleged victim may be examined by a doctor to see if any forensic evidence (e.g. DNA) can be found.
The law in Queensland now makes it mandatory for people to report sex offences involving children to police. A failure to report the matter to police is a criminal offence. From 5 July 2021 it became a criminal offence in Queensland for an adult not to report sexual offending by an adult against a child.
If an adult gains information causing them to believe (or it ought to cause them to believe) on reasonable grounds a child sexual offence is being, or has been committed against a child by an adult they must report it to police. The only exception is if the adult has a “reasonable excuse” not to report it to police. The report to police must be made as soon as reasonably practicable after the belief is, or ought reasonably to have been formed.
Who is a Child?
A child is deemed to be a person under 16 years of age, or a person under 18 years of age and with an impairment of the mind.
What is a “Child Sexual Offence”?
A “child sexual offence” means an offence of a sexual nature committed in relation to a child. Such offences include:
- Indecent treatment of a child.
- Carnal knowledge with or of a child.
- Grooming a child (or their parent or carer).
- Making child exploitation material.
- Maintaining a sexual relationship with a child.
What is a “reasonable excuse” not to report the information to police?
The law says the following may be a reasonable excuse not to report a matter to police:
1. If the adult believes on reasonable grounds the information has already been given to the police.
2. The adult has already reported the information under any fo the following, or believes on reasonable grounds another person has or will do:
- Chapter 2, part 1AA of the Child Protection Act 1999.
- Chapter 12, part 10 of the Education (General Provisions) Act 2006.
- Part 8 or 9 of the Youth Justice Act 1992.
- The adult gains the information after the child becomes an adult (the alleged victim), and the adult reasonably believes the alleged victim does not want the information to be disclosed to a police officer.
- Both of the following apply—
(i) the adult reasonably believes disclosing the information to a police officer would endanger the safety of the adult or another person, other than the alleged offender, regardless of whether the belief arises because of the fact of the disclosure or the information disclosed; and
(ii) failure to disclose the information to a police officer is a reasonable response in the circumstances.
What if the information came to the adult because of a religious confession?
It does not matter. If a person gave information to the adult during a religious confession, the adult must still report it to police.
In Queensland there is no statute of limitations in relation to when a person must make a complaint of a sex crime. This means a person can complain of a sex crime to police at any time, and they will investigate it. A person can be accused of, and prosecuted for a sex crime at anytime during their lifetime. In some situations, complaints of sex crimes can occur decades after the alleged offending.
Historical sex crimes are very difficult to defend because of the lapse of time between the alleged offence and when the complaint is made. The date of the alleged offence for a historical sex crime is often very broad. This is because the complainant rarely knows when the alleged offence is alleged to have occurred. The charge will be drafted with the offence occurring between a wide range of dates.
The consequences of being charged with a historical sex crime are huge. It can result in an accused being at a disadvantage because:
- An accused may be unable to provide an alibi because of the passage of time. It is very difficult to say where you were when the offence is alleged to have occurred a long time ago. An accused may have been somewhere else at the time of the alleged offence. Had the complaint been made earlier, the accused would likely have recalled this. However, because of the passage of time, the accused cannot remember where, or who they were with at the time of the alleged offence.
- Medical evidence available at the time of the alleged offence is often no longer available.
- Witnesses who may have been able to give evidence which would defeat the complainant’s claims are no longer around.
Criminal Lawyers Brisbane Group, The Sexual Offence Experts
If police charge you with a sexual offence, the best thing you can do is arm yourself with a criminal defence lawyer. But, not any criminal lawyer. You want a criminal lawyer whose primary practice is sexual offences. At the Criminal Lawyers Brisbane Group we focus on crimes involving sex, drugs and, no, not rock and roll, but fraud.
If you want the best result, you need the best Brisbane criminal lawyers. Contact the Criminal Lawyers Brisbane Group today for confidential expert advice. We represent clients throughout South-East Queensland. No matter where your criminal charge is, our sex crime lawyers can help you.
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