Possessing, Disseminating and Producing Animal Cruelty Material to Become a Crime in NSW

by Sonia Hickey & Ugur Nedim
Sad dog

An amendment to the Crimes Act passed the state’s lower house last week, which proposes to criminalise the production, dissemination and possession of bestiality material, as well as animal torture material.

If the laws pass the upper house, the maximum penalty will be 5 years in prison for production and dissemination, and 3 years for possession.

Until now, possessing and sharing these videos was legal, with much of it shared on the dark web.

Zoophilia

Sadly, there appears to be an appetite for videos which depict humans having sex with animals, and even animals being tortured and killed violently  – burned, crushed, beheaded, sufficated, impaled, and the list goes on.

An attraction to a nonhuman animal is known as ‘zoophilia’ and the dark net is a place where thousands gather to share animal cruelty material.

It is hoped that the new law will deter those in Australia from engaging with zoophilia groups and pages.

Bestiality is a criminal offence in Australia

Bestiality is a crime across Australia but, until now, Tasmania has been the only jurisdiction in to have specific laws to criminalise photos and videos depicting the act.

In New South Wales, bestiality is defined as the act of sexually penetrating an animal. It is also a criminal offence to attempt to commit an act of bestiality with any animal.

The maxiumum penalty for bestiality is 14 years’ imprisonment, and an attempt to commit the act carries up to 5 years behind bars.

Between July 2015 and June 2020, a total 57 incidences of bestiality were recorded across the state, but it is believed these numbers vastly under-report the crime, as animals obviously don’t have a voice to report and the act often occurs out of public notice.

The link between bestiality and child sexual abuse

In 2019, Byron Bay man sent to prison for 16 years after pleading guilty to more than 80  charges including aggravated sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, bestiality and producing child-abuse material.

A month earlier, a Newcastle man was charged with child sex offences and bestiality after allegedly being linked to a global online child abuse network.

There is a small but growing body of research which suggests a link between bestiality and child sex offences, although there is only limited statistical data regarding the possible link.

Some studies which have interviewed offenders, preface their findings with the caveat that most sex offenders are reluctant to discuss the full scope of their criminal behavior, particularly when the victim is an animal or a child.

United States studies

A United States study published in 2014 suggested that approximately one-third of juvenile sex offenders admitted to engaging in bestiality as a child.

Another U.S. study conducted reviewed arrests and court cases between 1970 and 2015.

Of the 491 arrests studied, 42.6% involved child as well as animal sexual assault or exploitation. 21% of the arrests were for sexual assault of a child, 8% involved solicitation or coercion of a child to have sex with an animal.

More than half of the offenders collected, distributed or produced child and / or animal pornography.

NSW Justice Party MP Emma Hurst, who led the push for change has  also spoken of ‘anecdotal’ evidence that bestiality videos are commonly discovered among people charged with possession of child abuse material.

“By creating this new offence, police will have a greater ability to prosecute people involved in both child and animal abuse, and it could help obtain stronger sentences for these abusers,” she says.

She is now pushing for similar laws to be introduced in other states.

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Authors

Sonia Hickey

Sonia Hickey is a freelance writer, magazine journalist, and owner of 'Woman with Words'. She has a strong interest in social justice and is a member of the Sydney Criminal Lawyers® content team. Sonia is the winner of the Mondaq Thought Leadership Awards, Autumn 2021.

Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim is an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist with 24 years of experience as a Criminal Defence Lawyer. He is the Principal of Sydney Criminal Lawyers®.

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