Area of Law – Sexual Offences

An Article about Age of complainant in sexual assault cases

Age of complainant in sexual assault matters
Often when younger people are charged with sexual penetration of a child under 16 there is an issue about whether they knew the alleged victim was under 16 years old. This is a complex issue and young people in interviews often do not explain themselves very well. It is generally the first time that a person has been interviewed by the police and they are intimidated by what is going on.

Witness statements will be written in a way that makes it will seem certain that they accused knew the age of the complainant. Often when questioned, the witnesses will not be as certain as the statements they signed in the Police Station.

We have won a number of sexual penetration cases on this issue.

The major problem in pleading guilty to these matters is that even where all participants are teenagers you would still have to advise that a gaol term was a likely outcome.

Witness giving evidence as to age of victim
Evidence of appearance is generally used to determine an obvious age or range of ages.

Sweeney v Denness (1954) 56 WALR 52*

In a sexual penetration of a person under 16 case it is more likely to make a belief that 16 more reasonable if they looked older than their real age. To put that another way if she/he looked over 16 and did not tell you they were under 16 then you would have a defence to the charge.


Date: 09/01/2009