DATING IN THE DIGITAL AGE – NAVIGATING THE AGE OF CONSENT
Dating in the digital age is already fraught with difficulties. It can often mean that without a guarantee as to the accuracy of a person’s age, a casual fling could unknowingly turn illegal. Although most dating applications require the person signing up to agree that they are at least 18 years of age, unfortunately, this declaration may not be legally binding as proof of the person’s age and whether they are old enough to consent.
The age of consent (in most circumstances) in Western Australia is 16 years of age. The age of consent increases to 18 years of age in cases where one party is in a position of authority. Such circumstances could include teacher/student or employer/employee scenarios, where the other party is under 18 years of age. Having a sexual relationship with someone younger than the legal age of consent is illegal and can be prosecuted in the District Court of Western Australia.
In 2015, four men were prosecuted for various sexual offences against a 14-year-old boy after meeting him online. The boy had signed up to a dating website for adults, where he described himself as being 18 years of age. In similar circumstances, people may be facing an immediate term of imprisonment and being placed on the National Sex Offender Register.
The scope of the law in Western Australia in respect of sexual offences against children is extremely wide. This means that there are a variety of offences which people can be charged with, which do not involve physical touching of a child. For instance, if you have communicated with a person online in a sexually explicit manner, and they happen to be underage, you may be prosecuted with a criminal offence.
At Butlers, our specialist criminal law team have a wealth of knowledge in relation to sex offences. We will be able to advise if you have a defence to the charge or whether we can write to the prosecution requesting that they downgrade or discontinue the charge.
To find out if we can assist you, phone our criminal defence team now on (08) 9386 5200.