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Recent decades have witnessed intense and accelerated change in what constitutes criminal, unlawful or inappropriate sexual conduct. Some sexual conduct that was, until relatively recently, legally proscribed is no longer unlawful. Conversely, some sexual conduct that was once lawful is now either unlawful or sanctioned on various other bases. Consent, a key concept relevant in this area, has been the subject of frequent significant re-definition in the criminal law.
The subject aims to explore the legal issues raised by these transformative developments, including the applicable legislative framework, statutory definitions and criteria and relevant judicial approaches and responses.
Principal topics will include:
1. Sexual offences where consent irrelevant:
- other categories of person
- accessorial liability – reporting obligations
2. Sexual offences against adults
- rape – the issue of consent
- sexual assault
Recently criminalised conduct which may be sexual
- coercive control
- electronic communications
- grooming – application to adults?
- position of the complainant in the criminal justice process
- limits on questioning
- participation in plea bargaining
- role of victim impact statements
3. Non-criminal but unlawful sexual misconduct in particular contexts – Sexual Harassment – its definition and elements:
- welcome/unwelcome conduct
- disclosure and non-disclosure obligations
- complaints procedures
- relevance of directors’ and corporate officers’ duties
- investigation procedures
4. Sexual conduct/communications that are inappropriate but not unlawful
– what remedies, responses or sanctions (if any) are or should be available in particular contexts, including the workplace, public office and public life?
- potential tensions between responses to such conduct and civil liberties
Because this subject will address sexual crimes, misconduct, harassment and other potentially inappropriate sexual conduct, the material may be confronting and distressing.
The subject is not focused on the social and political issues raised by the subject matter. Rather, its focus is on how Australian law currently defines and regulates various forms of criminal and problematic sexual conduct.
Intended learning outcomes
On completion of this subject, students should be able to:
- Understand the legal principles raised when sexual conduct and the law interact.
- Be able to advise those who have been subjected to sexual offences, harassment, misconduct or otherwise inappropriate conduct on their avenues of recourse.
- Be able to advise directors and managers of their relevant obligations and potential liabilities.
- Be able to advise persons who have allegedly engaged in sexual offences or misconduct.
Last updated: 31 January 2024