What is Indecent Assault?
Indecent assault is defined as the intentional touching of another person in indecent circumstances whilst either:
- Being aware that the other person is not or might not be consenting; or
- Not giving any thought to whether the other person is not or might not be consenting.
The offence of indecent assault was contained in section 39 of the Crimes Act 1958 in Victoria from 1 January 1992. However, the offence of indecent assault was replaced with the offence of sexual assault on 1 July 2015. If the alleged conduct occurred prior to 29 June 2015, the relevant offence is indecent assault. Indecent assault is similar to sexual assault but there are important differences.
Under this old offence, there is no requirement for the prosecution to prove that the offender did not reasonably believe that the other person was consenting. If the accused honestly believed that the other person was consenting, then they would be not guilty of indecent assault.
The additional requirement of reasonableness in the definition of sexual assault is one of many amendments made to the Crimes Act in recent years. This is in an attempt to offer further protection to victims of sexual offences.
Proving Indecent Assault
The prosecution must prove:
- The assault occurred on dates between 1 January 1992 – 29 June 2015.
- The accused assaulted another person (the force used need not be violent, it can be as slight as a mere touch).
- The assault was intentional and without lawful justification.
- The accused did so in indecent circumstances.
- The accused was aware:
- (a) that the person indecently assaulted was not consenting,
- (b) might not be consenting to the assault, or
- (c) simply failed to give any consideration as to whether the complainant was consenting.
How does Sexual Assault differ from Indecent Assault?
Sexual assault is defined as a person intentionally touching another person in a sexual manner whilst the other person is not consenting, and the other offender does not reasonably believe that the other person is consenting to touching.
This offence is contained in section 40 of the Crimes Act 1958 in Victoria. The maximum penalty for the offence is 10 years imprisonment.
There are several variations on this offence, such as:
- Sexual assault by compelling sexual touching, where the victim has been compelled to touch the offender
- Child sexual abuse
In the case where the victim is a child, the prosecution does not need to prove that the child was not consenting. Rather, the touching must be contrary to community standards of acceptable conduct.
Sexual assaults can range from serious examples of forceful and violent non-consensual activity against the victim’s will, to much less serious conduct. A ‘less serious’ sexual assault could include slapping someone on the buttocks over their clothing without their consent.
If the assault occurred after 29 June 2015, the crime is sexual assault.
Sexual Assault Lawyers in Melbourne
If you are facing indecent assault charges or sexual assault charges, you should consult an expert lawyer.
At Slades & Parsons, our expert criminal lawyers appear in courts across Melbourne daily. We are well-versed in handling sexual assault cases and charges. Contact us today to speak to an expert lawyer.
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