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7.3.18.3 - Charge: Indecent Act with a 16 or 17 year old Child (1/12/06 – 30/6/17) – Consent in issue

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When to use this charge

This charge can be used for trials commenced after 1/1/08 involving offences alleged to have been committed on or after 1/12/06 where consent is in issue. If consent is not in issue, use Charge: Indecent act with a 16 or 17 year old child (1/12/06 – 30/6/17) - Consent Not in issue instead.

For offences alleged to have been committed before 1 December 2006, see:

 

I must now direct you about the crime of [committing/Being a party to the commission of] an indecent act with a 16 or 17 year old child.

The law says that the age of consent for sexual acts is normally 16. However, for persons aged 16 or 17, the law has created this specific offence to protect young people from exploitation by persons in positions of care, supervision or authority.

To prove this crime, the prosecution must prove the following 7 elements beyond reasonable doubt:

One - the accused [committed the alleged act/was a party to the commission of the alleged act].

Two - the accused [wilfully committed the alleged indecent act/was wilfully a party to the alleged indecent act].

Three - the act occurred in indecent circumstances.

Four - the act was intentionally done [with/in the presence of] the complainant.

Five - at the time the alleged act took place, the complainant was under the care, supervision or authority of the accused.

Six - the complainant was 16 or 17 years old when the act took place.

Seven - the accused was not married to the complainant at the time the alleged act took place.

I will now explain each of these elements in more detail.

Actions of the accused

The first element relates to what the accused did. S/he must have [committed the act alleged by the prosecution/been a party in any way to the act alleged by the prosecution].

In this case the prosecution alleged that NOA [insert evidence about the relevant act]. The defence responded [insert relevant evidence and/or arguments].

Wilful

The second element relates to the accused person’s state of mind. The prosecution must prove that the accused [wilfully committed the alleged indecent act/was wilfully a party to the alleged indecent act]. That is, you must be satisfied that the accused’s participation in the act was deliberate not accidental.

Indecent circumstances

The third element that the prosecution must prove is that the alleged act occurred in indecent circumstances.

Indecent is an ordinary, everyday word, and it is for you to determine whether the circumstances were indecent.

However, the law says that indecent circumstances must involve a sexual connotation. This may arise from the area of the complainant’s body NOA touched, what NOA used to touch NOC or from the circumstances of the act. Beyond the requirement of a sexual connotation, the question of whether or not the circumstances were indecent is for you to decide.

In this case, the prosecution alleged that NOA’s act occurred in indecent circumstances because [insert evidence]. [If relevant add: The defence responded [insert evidence]].

For this element to be met, you must be satisfied, beyond reasonable doubt, that NOA’s act occurred in indecent circumstances.

With/In the presence of the complainant

The fourth element that the prosecution must prove is that the alleged act was intentionally done [with/in the presence of] the complainant.

In this case the prosecution submitted that [insert evidence about the way in which the act was committed with or in the presence of the complainant]. The defence responded [insert relevant evidence and/or arguments].

If it is alleged that the act was committed in the presence of the complainant, add the following shaded text:

For this element to be satisfied, you do not need to find that there was any physical contact between NOA and NOC. This element will be met if the prosecution can prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that NOC was present at the place where the alleged act was committed, and NOA was aware of that fact.]

Care, Supervision and Authority

The fifth element that the prosecution must prove is that, at the time that the alleged indecent act took place, the complainant was under the care, supervision or authority of the accused.

If care, supervision or authority is not in issue, add the following shaded section

In this case it was conceded by the defence that NOA was NOC’s [describe relationship] and that the complainant was thus under the care, supervision or authority of the accused [at the relevant time]. While it is for you to determine whether this was the case, you should have no difficulty finding that this element has been proved.

If care, supervision or authority is in issue and s49(4) applies, add the direction from the following shaded section

[Note: If the prosecution relies on s49(4) and the common law as alternatives, this charge will need to be modified.]

Parliament has defined a number of relationships where a child is deemed to be under the care, supervision and authority of another person. This includes [name relevant relationships from s49(4) list].

In this case the prosecution alleged that NOA was NOC’s [describe relationship]. [Insert prosecution evidence]. The defence responded [insert relevant evidence and/or arguments].

If you find beyond reasonable doubt that NOA was NOC’s [identify relationship] at the time of the alleged offence(s), then you will find this element has been proved.

If care, supervision or authority is in issue and s49(4) does not apply, add the shaded section

The words “care, supervision or authority” all describe different types of relationships where the accused is in a position to exploit or take advantage of that relationship to influence the child to take part in act in indecent circumstances.[1] You should take this into account when deciding whether the prosecution has proved that the complainant was under the accused’s care, supervision or authority.

The relationship of care, supervision or authority does not have to be a formal one. There does not, for example, have to have been a formal agreement that the accused would take care of the complainant. An informal relationship of care, supervision or authority is sufficient.

[If relevant, add: You do not need to find that the alleged act was actually connected with, or influenced by, the relationship of care, supervision or authority or that NOA was actually exploiting his/her position of advantage. It is sufficient if you are satisfied that an established relationship of care, supervision or authority existed between NOA and NOC that could have been connected with, or influenced the child to engage in, the alleged act, and that the relationship existed on the day on which the act took place.]

In this case the prosecution alleged that NOC was under NOA’s [care/supervision/authority]. [Insert prosecution evidence]. The defence responded [insert relevant evidence and/or arguments].

It is for you to determine, on the basis of all the evidence, whether the prosecution has proven, beyond reasonable doubt, that NOC was under NOA’s care, supervision or authority at the time that the alleged act took place.

[If the accused may be unaware of the facts giving rise to a relationship of care, supervision or authority, add the following shaded section]

The law states that NOA must know and be aware of the facts that give rise to a relationship of care, supervision or authority. For example, if a teacher with a large number of students did not recognise the complainant was a member of one of his/her classes, then you could not find this element proved.

[Insert relevant prosecution and defence evidence and arguments].

16 or 17 year old child

The sixth element relates to the complainant. The prosecution must prove that s/he was 16 or 17 years old at the time that the alleged indecent act took place.

In this case, there is no dispute that NOC was [16 or 17] at the time the alleged indecent act took place. The main issue in this case is [insert relevant issue]. [2]

Accused not married to the complainant

The seventh element that the prosecution must prove is that the accused was not married to the complainant at the time the alleged indecent act took place.

In this case, the defence has not disputed the prosecution’s claim that s/he was not married to NOC at the time that the alleged act took place. The main issue in this case is [insert relevant issue]. [3]

 

Consent

Note

  • This charge addresses consent coupled with a belief on reasonable grounds that the child was aged 18 or older (s49(2)(a)). If the issue is s49(2)(b) (accused believed on reasonable grounds that s/he was married to the complainant) the charge will need to be adapted accordingly. See Indecent Act with a 16 or 17 year old Child (1/12/06 – 30/6/17) for guidance.

    Warning

  • For offences alleged to have been committed on or after 1 November 2014, it is not clear whether Crimes Act 1958 s322T affects the relevance of intoxication to this defence. Judges should seek submissions from the parties on this issue where relevant.

    Belief that complainant was aged 18 or more

Even if you find that the prosecution has proved all seven elements of this offence, NOA will not necessarily be guilty of this offence. This is because, in certain circumstances, consent will be a defence.

The law states that consent is available as a defence if the accused believed on reasonable grounds that the complainant was at least 18 years old at the time of the alleged indecent act.

Unlike the elements of the offence – which the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt – this belief is a matter which the accused must prove on the balance of probabilities. That is, the accused must prove that it is more likely than not that s/he believed on reasonable grounds that NOC was aged 18 or over for consent to be available as a defence.

 

So, by contrast to proof of the elements of the offence(s), where the prosecution must satisfy you beyond reasonable doubt of them, for the defence of reasonable belief to be established to your satisfaction, it is for the accused, not the prosecution to prove the existence of a reasonable belief in age.

And the standard to which the defence must do this is a lesser standard than proof beyond reasonable doubt, it is proof on the balance of probabilities. That is, the accused must satisfy you that it is more likely than not that he believed, on reasonable grounds, that the complainant was 18 or over.

In this case [insert relevant evidence and competing arguments].

If the prosecution has conceded either consent or belief in consent, add the shaded section

As it is not in issue in this case that the indecent act was consensual, if the accused satisfied you, on the balance of probabilities that s/he believed, on reasonable grounds, that at the time of the alleged indecent act, that the complainant was 18 or over, then your verdict in respect of that charge will be not guilty. If however, the accused does not satisfy you on the balance of probabilities that at the time he believed the complainant was 18 or over, and that his belief was based on reasonable grounds, then despite the fact that the act was consensual, this defence will fail.

If either consent or belief in consent is in issue, add the shaded section

Warning: It is an unresolved question whether the prosecution must prove that the accused was aware that the complainant was not consenting or might not be consenting. This Charge Book requires proof of awareness of non-consent as a matter of prudence. See Consent and Awareness of Non-Consent for more information.

If, however, you find that the NOA has proved that s/he believed on reasonable grounds that NOC was at least 18 years old at the time of the alleged indecent act, then you will need to determine whether the prosecution have proved two additional elements: first, that NOC did not consent to the alleged indecent act and second, that NOA was aware that NOC was not or might not be consenting.

Definition of consent
Dealing with the first of these additional elements, consent is a state of mind. The law says that consent means free agreement. So NOC will not have consented to the indecent act if s/he did not freely agree to take part in that act.

It is for the prosecution to prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that the complainant did not freely agree to the indecent act. So if consent is relevant to your determination, and the prosecution cannot prove beyond reasonable doubt that NOC did not freely agree to the alleged indecent act, then you must find NOA not guilty of this offence.

The law identifies a number of circumstances where the complainant is deemed not to freely agree, or consent, to an indecent act. These circumstances include [insert relevant section(s) from the following and apply to the evidence:

  1. the person submits because of force or the fear of force to that person or someone else;
  2. the person submits because of the fear of harm of any type to that person or someone else;
  3. the person submits because s/he is unlawfully detained;
  4. the person is asleep, unconscious, or so affected by alcohol or another drug as to be incapable of freely agreeing;
  5. the person is incapable of understanding the sexual nature of the act;
  6. the person is mistaken about the sexual nature of the act or the identity of the person;
  7. the person mistakenly believes that the act is for medical or hygienic purposes.]

If you are satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that one of these circumstances existed in relation to NOC, you must find that s/he was not consenting. However, you do not need to consider this question only by reference to these particular circumstances. If you are satisfied beyond reasonable doubt on any basis arising from the evidence that the complainant was not consenting, then this element will be proved.

If there is evidence that the complainant did not say or do anything to indicate agreement, add the following shaded section

The law also says that the fact that a person did not say or do anything to indicate free agreement to a sexual act at the time at which the act took place is enough to show that the act took place without that person’s free agreement.

This means that if you accept that NOC did not say or do anything to indicate free agreement to the alleged indecent act at the time of that act, you may find on that basis that s/he did not consent to that act.

Where evidence is given about the lack of resistance or injury or about past consensual sex, add the follow section

The law also says the complainant is not to be regarded as having freely agreed just because:

However, these are relevant factors for you to consider. You must consider the action or lack of action of NOC, together with all the surrounding circumstances, in order to decide whether the prosecution has proved beyond reasonable doubt that NOC did not consent.

In determining whether NOC did not freely agree to the alleged indecent act you must consider all of the relevant evidence, including what s/he is alleged to have said and done at the time of that act, as well as the evidence s/he gave in court about [his/her] state of mind at that time. You can also consider what s/he did not say or do at the time of the alleged act.

In this case, the prosecution alleged that NOC did not consent. [Insert relevant evidence and competing arguments].

If the prosecution fails to prove to you beyond reasonable doubt this first additional element that NOC did not consent, then you must find NOA not guilty.

Awareness of Lack of Consent

Turning now to the second additional element, if consent is available as a defence, the prosecution must also prove beyond reasonable doubt that at the time of the alleged indecent act the accused was aware either:

If the prosecution fails to prove to you beyond reasonable doubt that NOA had one of these state(s) of mind about the complainant’s consent, then you must find NOA not guilty of this offence.

Belief in consent

[If evidence is led or an assertion is made that the accused believed that the complainant was consenting, add one of the directions in Charge: Belief in consent]

Onus and standard of proof

Remember, you may not need to consider the issue of consent. The process that you must follow is this. First, you must decide if the prosecution has proved the seven elements of the offence beyond reasonable doubt. That is, the prosecution must prove that the accused [committed / was party to the commission] of an act in indecent circumstances with the complainant, that the act was intentionally done [with / in the presence of] the complainant, that NOC was aged 16 or 17 years old at the time, that NOA [committed the act wilfully / was wilfully a party to the act], that NOA was not married to NOC and that NOC was under NOA’s care, supervision or authority. If the prosecution cannot prove all seven of these elements, then you must find NOA not guilty of this offence.

Next, if you find that the prosecution has proved each of these elements beyond reasonable doubt, and the accused has raised the issue as to belief in age, you must then decide if NOA has proved, on the balance of probabilities, that s/he believed that NOC was at least 18 years old, and that that belief was based on reasonable grounds. If the accused cannot prove both of these matters, then NOA will be guilty of this offence, as long as the prosecution have proved each of the first seven elements of the offence beyond reasonable doubt.

If, however, you find that the accused has proved these matters as to belief in age on the balance of probabilities, you must then decide whether the prosecution has proved, beyond reasonable doubt, the two additional elements that NOC did not consent, and that NOA was aware that s/he was not or might not be consenting. If the prosecution cannot prove both of these things, then you must find NOA not guilty of this offence. It is only if you are satisfied that they have been proved beyond reasonable doubt, together with each of the first seven elements of the offence, that you can convict NOA of [committing / being party to the commission of] an indecent act with a child aged 16 or 17.

 

Summary

To summarise, before you can find NOA guilty of [committing/being a party to the commission of] an indecent act with a 16 or 17 year old child, the prosecution must prove to you beyond reasonable doubt:

One - that NOA [committed [insert relevant act]/was a party to the commission of [insert relevant act]]; and

Two - that NOA [wilfully committed/was wilfully a party to] the alleged indecent act; and

Three - that this act occurred in indecent circumstances; and

Four - that this act was done [with/in the presence of] NOC; and

Five - That NOC was under the care, supervision or authority of NOA at the time that this act took place; and

Six  - that NOC was 16 or 17 years old when this act took place; and

Seven - that NOA was not married to NOC at the time that this act took place.

 

If you find that any of these elements have not been proved beyond reasonable doubt, then you must find NOA not guilty of [committing/being a party to the commission of] an indecent act with a 16 or 17 year old child.

If you decide that each of these elements have been proved beyond reasonable doubt, you must decide if the accused has proved, on the balance of probabilities:

If the accused has not proved both of these matters on the balance of probabilities, and you find that all of the elements have been proved by the prosecution beyond reasonable doubt, then NOA will be guilty of the offence. However, if you find that both of these matters have been proved by the accused on the balance of probabilities, you must then decide if the prosecution has proved, beyond reasonable doubt, that NOC did not consent to the indecent act and that NOA was aware that NOC was not or might not be consenting.

If the prosecution conceded either consent or belief in consent, add the shaded section

Since the prosecution does not dispute the accused’s claim that [insert basis of concession about consent, e.g. "NOC was consenting" or "s/he believed that NOC was consenting"], you must, if you reach this point, find NOA not guilty of this offence.

If either consent or belief in consent is in issue, add the shaded section

If the prosecution cannot prove these matters, then you must find NOA not guilty of [committing/being a party to the commission of] an indecent act with a 16 or 17 year old child.

 

Notes

[1] This charge is designed for cases where the accused committed an indecent act with the complainant. In cases where the act is committed in the presence of the complainant, the charge will need to be modified.

[2] If the complainant’s age is disputed, this section will need to be modified accordingly.

[3] If it is alleged that the accused and complainant were married, this section will need to be modified accordingly.

  Last updated: 30 November 2017

See Also

7.3.18 - Indecent Act with a 16 or 17 year old Child (1/12/06 – 30/6/17)

7.3.18.1 - Charge: Indecent Act with a 16 or 17 year old Child (1/12/06 – 30/6/17) – Consent not in issue

7.3.18.2 - Checklist: Indecent Act with a 16 or 17 year old Child (1/12/06 – 30/6/17) – Consent not in issue

7.3.18.4 - Checklist: Indecent Act with a 16 or 17 year old Child (1/12/06 – 30/6/17) – Consent in issue