Call for law reform in NT for sexual assault legislation

Date: Mar 18, 2020

Advocates have called for an overhaul of the Northern Territory’s evidence and procedure rules after records show almost one in three people charged with sexual assault over the past decade had their case dismissed or were found not guilty.

Call for law reform in NT for sexual assault legislation

Data obtained by the NT courts show that from 2008 to 2017, 1,417 people were charged with one or more sexual assault offences.

Out of the 1,417 people charged:

  • 428 had the main offence they were charged with dismissed or were found not guilty
  • 130 had the main charge against them withdrawn by the prosecution.
  • 265 were imprisoned.
  • 282 had their sentence partially or fully suspended.
  • Another 296 people charged between 2008 and 2017 have still not had the main sexual assault charge against them finalised or proceeded with.

Survivors need more support

Rape and Sexual Assault Research and Advocacy Group Director, Dr. Rachael Burgin said to ABC: “We are ignorant if we don’t recognise that survivors are well aware of what their experience in court will be. They are well aware that it will be a difficult process they are not willing to be absolutely torn to shreds on the stand.”

Dr. Burgin said there was a need for “substantial reform” to sexual assault and consent laws in the Northern Territory, including reform to existing evidence law.

“First and foremost we need an affirmative standard of sexual consent where there is an onus on the accused person to show if they are arguing that they had a reasonable and honest belief in consent they should be required to show what steps they took to make sure the other person is consenting,” Burgin told ABC.

In late 2018, the NSW state government ordered a review into consent laws following the high-profile Luke Lazarus case. In October 2019, the NSW Law Reform Commission released a set of draft proposals saying it will strengthen the state’s consent laws and bring them into line with Victoria and Tasmania. The draft proposals include explicitly clarifying the meaning of consent, proposing that consent is not given if a person “does not do or say anything to communicate consent.”

Dr. Rachael Burgin states that she wants to see similar changes to the Northern Territory legislation.

If you or a loved one have been a victim of sexual assault, you should consult a specialist lawyer right away. The experienced team at Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers can help with compassion, commitment and confidence. Contact us today.

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts, or email your enquiry.