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Institute advocacy informs public debate on sexual assault and consent

14 August 2018
Public forum on sexual assault and consent in NSW
More than 80 policy makers, legal professionals, academics, criminal justice agency representatives and public attended the Sydney Institute of Criminology’s public forum to discuss sexual assault and consent law in NSW.
SIC event

Dr Carolyn McKay, Dr Tanya Serisier (Birbeck College), Professor Arlie Loughnan, Associate Professor Rita Shackel and Mr Andrew Dyer at the forum.

In Australia and around the world, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and other forms of sexual abuse are attracting high levels of public and political concern. Survivors of sexual assault are speaking out about their experiences, and reform of the criminal law is being mooted. On a global scale the most visible aspect of the recent debate on sexual consent has been the MeToo movement.

This discussion in NSW has been focused on the Lazarus case, which has received substantial media coverage not only because of the scrutiny that the case has generated of consent legislation in NSW, but also because the incident concerned has involved two trials and some controversy about how both of those trials were adjudicated. The case has prompted a NSW Law Reform Commission Review of the sexual consent provisions in the NSW Crimes Act to determine if the law needs to be amended to better protect victims.

Speakers and attendees examined the social and cultural aspects of speaking out about sexual assault and canvassed some of the options for possible reform of the law of consent in relation to sexual assault offences.

"The turnout at this event and the robust discussion it generated emphasises the importance of a range of public fora to inform public education on criminal law and criminal justice given the need to get the balance right between victim and defendant rights. Serious matters of this kind can result in the unintended consequences of legislation generated in response to misinformed debate," said Sydney Institute of Criminology co-director Arlie Loughnan.

"The Institute’s submissions to the NSW Law Reform Commission review into sexual consent legislation are part of our ongoing commitment to criminal law advocacy to inform public debate. Sharing a plurality of views is central to these discussions. The NSW Law Reform Commission Review is reporting on consent and knowledge of consent in relation to sexual assault offences and the Institute’s advocacy and public outreach provide expert opinion and public education to that end."

Preliminary submissions to the NSW Law Reform Commission’s review into sexual consent legislation in NSW closed on 29 June 2018. The NSW Law Reform Commission will be seeking further community input upon release of its consultation paper. Read each of the Sydney Institute of Criminology’s submissions to the review by Loughnan, Mackay, Mitchell and Shackel, Gail Mason and James Monaghan and Andrew Dyer. The recent article by Professor Gail Mason and Mr James Monaghan in the Alternative Law Journal, ‘Communicative consent in New South Wales: Considering Lazarus v R’, can be found here.

The NSW Law Reform Commission has released its consultation paper on sexual assault and consent and is seeking submissions by Friday 1 February 2019. Find out how to make a submission.