NSW Law Reform Commission Introduces Changes in Affirmative Consent Laws

NSW Law Reform Commission

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The New South Wales Law Reform Commission (LRC) has stirred the public once again with the reforms in the state’s sexual consent laws. Among the reforms that NSW residents expect is the introduction of affirmative consent in the sexual assault laws. Changes to the law were triggered by the sexual assault case filed by Saxon Mullins against Luke Lazarus years ago.

The case has gained mixed reactions from NSW residents and criminal lawyers NSW. It has also attracted the attention of several criminal law firms and has been featured in different Sydney criminal lawyers blog since 2017. As expected, some criminal lawyers NSW and criminal law firms shared different thoughts about the acquittal of Lazarus at a retrial in May 2017. While many cried foul for the decision, others call for reforms of the NSW sexual assault laws.

The case once again became the headlines in different newspapers, defense lawyer blogs and online writeups in November 2017 when the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal supported the previous rape acquittal. The acquittal was made as Judge Robyn Tupman believed that the sexual intercourse was consented by Mullins. Judge Tupman’s decision, as mentioned, triggered the NSW LRC to once again have a look at the Australian state’s rape and sexual assault legislation.

Mullins: Catalyst of Change

“Affirmative consent is just an ongoing conversation between yourself and whoever you’re engaging in sexual activity with, and making sure that the other person wants to continue on wants to keep going with what’s happening,” Mullins said in a media interview in relation to her case.

To make the sexual assault law clearer and more detailed, the commission agreed to the reform stating that affirmative consent should be sought appropriately and communicated between the two parties. To be free from any assault complaint, there must be a clear expression and verbal consent that both parties agree to be involved in sexual intercourse or even sexual touching.

Varying Opinions from Criminal Lawyers NSW About the Reforms

Criticisms were raised by various criminal lawyers NSW and criminal law firms in relation to the affirmative consent reform. In some defense lawyer blogs and articles, it was published how a number of lawyers argued that the change will reverse the importance of the onus of proof in such cases. Some groups also criticised the reform as it could result in increased sexual assault case convictions instead of assessing if the charged is guilty or not in a trial.

While some people criticise the change, others, including Mullins, believe it to be a win for the state. “I think we have seen such ongoing support for this movement, with all the marches we’ve seen recently, all the stories that are coming forward. So I hope this support continues and this momentum continues. And I do have hope that we will see some further change,” she said in an interview.

Although the reform has been looked at, Speakman believes that the implementation will happen in around six months as it will still be introduced to the parliament.

If you or someone you know has been accused of a sexual assault, know that compassionate, expert legal advice is available. For a consultation with Powerhouse Law, call 1800 100 529 or submit your details via our online form.