When charged with any criminal offence, engaging a criminal lawyer will assist you in understanding the case against you, what (if any) defences are available to you, how to navigate the courts, what your options are and how to set about achieving the best possible outcome that is available to you.
Cases involving allegations of sexual offending are sensitive and complex.
It follows that if you are accused of a sexual offence, you will require the guidance of an experienced, considerate and discreet criminal defence lawyer.
Allegations of sexual offending are taken extremely seriously in Victoria. The majority of sex related crimes are found in the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) and the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth), while some summary sexual offences are also found in the Summary Offences Act 1966 (Vic).
Sexual offences are usually thought of as non-consensual acts that involve touching, such as rape or sexual assault but that may not always be the case. There are certain sexual behaviours that do not involve any touching but are still criminalised, such as the possession of child pornography or communications sent to a child involving sexual content.
Summary offences are always dealt with in the Magistrates court. Penalties for summary offences vary, with the highest penalty for a single summary charge being two years imprisonment. There are many sex-related offences listed in the Summary Offences Act 1996 (Vic). One example of a summary sexual offence is if a person (the accuser) posts a photograph of another person (the victim) on a social media website without the victim’s consent and the photograph posted depicts the victim engaged in sexual activity. Other examples may include threatening to distribute an intimate image of someone or sexual exposure in a public place.
Indictable sexual offences are serious criminal charges. While there are many indictable sexual offences which can and often are dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court because of their serious nature these type of offences often progress to the County Court. Penalties for indictable sexual offences vary but they often involve immediate imprisonment.
In Victoria, sexual assault is a specific type of sexual offence set out in section 40 of the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic). In that situation, the offender touches the victim in a sexual manner without the consent of the victim in circumstances where the offender does not reasonably believe that the victim has consented. If found guilty, a person could be imprisoned for a maximum of 10 years.
Other examples of serious sexual offending set out in the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) and the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) are:
If you are charged with a sexual offence, you should obtain advice from an experienced criminal lawyer as soon as possible to help you understand whether you have a defence available to you and the range of potential penalties that you are facing.
To be clear, you should make every effort to obtain legal advice before participating in an interview with the police. An experienced lawyer will explain your rights to you and help you decide whether to provide an account to the police or exercise your right to remain silent. If you choose to give an account, what you say becomes evidence in court, so it is immensely helpful for you to know your rights prior to being questioned, so you will understand the process and have a strategy in place for the interview.
If you have been charged with sexual assault, you want to hire a lawyer experienced in dealing with such cases.
The laws ad proceedings for a sexual offence case can be complicated, so if you have not retained a criminal lawyer, the first thing you should do is get an expert in criminal law to act on your behalf and guide you through the process.
A lawyer with expertise with allegations of sexual offending will: assist you in understanding the court processes and procedures; obtain the evidentiary material from the police said to support the sexual allegations which have been made against you; and once that material has been obtained, that lawyer will review it closely to provide you with advice as to whether you have a defence, the strength of that defence and what the possible outcomes are available for you if you plead guilty or are found guilty.
For criminal lawyers in Melbourne who are equipped to guide you through the process of a sexual offence case, Stary Norton Halphen can provide you with clear and professional legal advice and work with you to achieve the best possible outcome for your case.
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Doyle's Guide First Tier Criminal Law firm (2020, 2021 and 2022).