Being charged with committing an act of indecency can be a distressing experience, and being found guilty of this offence can have repercussions for the rest of your life.
If you have been charged with committing an act of indecency, you should not automatically plead guilty.
There are a number of potential defences to an act of indecency and indecent assault charges, which may allow you to avoid a criminal conviction, and the potential problems this can cause.
What is an act of indecency?
The definition of ‘indecency’ is constantly evolving, and standards of socially acceptable behaviour change over time.
To be considered an act of indecency, an act needs to have a sexual connotation, and be considered to be ‘contrary to the ordinary standards of respectable people in this community.’
The act also needs to have been committed for the sexual gratification of the accused, rather than by mistake, or for any other reason.
This can often be difficult to prove.
Indecent assault is a similar charge, and is used where the accused has touched (assaulted) the alleged victim, and then performed the act of indecency during the assault, or directly before or afterwards.
What are the penalties for being convicted of an act of indecency?
An act of indecency is generally considered a relatively minor offence, but it does carry a maximum penalty of 18 months imprisonment.
Other penalties include a good behaviour bond, a fine and a suspended sentence. If it is a first offence, the penalties will generally be less than for a second or subsequent offence.
Indecent assault on a child under 16, or inciting a child under 16 to perform an act of indecency, comes with more severe penalties, including a maximum prison sentence of two years.
Indecency is usually dealt with in the local court, but the prosecution can elect to have the matter dealt with by a higher court, which means there is a possibility of harsher penalties, and a more in-depth legal process.
What are the defences to indecency charges?
Defending yourself against a charge of indecent assault or an act of indecency can be difficult.
Some common defences include consent, and if the alleged act of indecency was committed as part of a normal medical procedure.
In order for a conviction of indecency to be successful, the prosecution must prove that the act of indecency was committed without the consent of the alleged victim and with the intention of the accused obtaining sexual gratification from the act.
The prosecution also needs to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused committed both the assault and the act of indecency at the same time, or immediately before or after each other.
If the prosecution is unable to prove one or the other of the charges, they may not be successful in obtaining a conviction for indecent assault.
Having a criminal conviction for indecency or any other sexual offence can have serious implications for your future.
It can affect your ability to travel, and work.
Having a conviction for this type of offence means certain occupations, such as teaching or security jobs, will not be open to you.
If you are facing charges of indecency, speak to a respected criminal lawyer as soon as possible, to determine the best defence in your case, and help you avoid a lifelong criminal conviction.