Criminal Law

By Ben Aulich


Push for child sex doll offences to lead to registration on Sex Offender Register

Fairly recently the Commonwealth introduced an offence for possession of a child sex doll or similar object per section 273A of the Criminal Code 1995. It carries a maximum sentence of 15 years imprisonment. This offence is not yet listed as a registrable offence in the Crimes (Child Sex Offenders) Act 2005. That is – it is not yet automatic that someone found guilty of such an offence is registered on the child sex register. There is a push to make registration on the child sex register mandatory for this offence.

The problem with this legislation is that there is not sufficient research that suggests having possession of such a doll increases the likelihood that offenders will actually commit offences against real children. That’s the true evil the legislation is designed to protect the community against. As unsavoury as this might sound, having such a doll might, in fact, allow adults a way to satisfy urges in a manner which does not harm real children. It is such a serious offence when, on the fact of it, having possession of such a doll may be a victimless crime.

Turning to the question of whether the offence should carry an automatic registration as a child sex offender – nothing in criminal law should ever be automatic. Any mandatory or automatic consequence of criminal  behaviour leads to unsuitable, inappropriate or unjust sentences. We have acted for several clients that have ended up on the register automatically with all evidence suggesting they posed no threat to a child.

We have to trust that our judges and magistrates have sufficient skill and objectivity to craft a sentence for every offender that is suitable and appropriate. In some case that does mean being registered as a sex offender. In other cases it means offenders are not placed on the child sex register. It must be a case by case basis. Yes, that leads to some inconsistencies and of course, judges and magistrates make mistakes, but that is the consequence of upholding civil liberties and human rights. To scoop everyone upon with mandatory or automatic consequences is never the answer to combat perceived “inconsistencies” in sentencing.

I hope this gives a different perspective on a subject matter that the community at largely does not want to talk about or commonly says “just throw the book at them”.