What are the Penalties for Sexual Assault in New South Wales?

by Ugur Nedim & Sonia Hickey
Jarryd Hayne

NRL star Jarryd Hayne is currently at liberty on bail after a jury in Newcastle District Court found him guilty of two counts of sexual assault.

But Presiding Judge Helen Syme made clear to Mr Hayne’s lawyers that their client faces an “inevitable” prison term, before imposing a number of strict conditions on his bail;  including daily reporting to police, a $50,000 security, and prohibitions on contacting the complainant and leaving his local area on the Central Coast, except for specific reasons.

Hayne has also been required to forfeit his passport.

Long-running case

The case has been a long running one, with a jury unable to reach a verdict last year.

The jury in the second trial spent almost 3 days deliberating, before finding Mr Hayne guilty of two counts of sexual intercourse without consent, which is also known as sexual assault.

The jury found the footballer not guilty of two counts of aggravated sexual intercourse without consent inflicting actual bodily harm, which related to bleeding the woman sustained during the incident.

The evidence before the court

The complainant testified in court that she decided not to have sex with the footballer after she realised the taxi Hayne had taken to her Newcastle home in September 2018 was waiting outside for him.

She told the court that despite saying “no” and “no Jarryd”, the footballer became “rough, forceful and inconsiderate”, pushing her face into a pillow, ripping her jeans off and sexually assaulting her.

Mr Hayne took then stand and testified that in accordance with the then 26-year old woman’s request, the pair did not have “sex” but, after consensual kissing, he performed oral sex on the woman because he wanted to “please her”.

Soon after the encounter, the complainant sent Mr Hayne text messages, saying “I am hurting so much” and “I know I’ve talked about sex and stuff so much but I didn’t want to do that after knowing the taxi was waiting for you”.

Mr Hayne replied: “Go doctor tomorrow.”

The woman recorded a short video, showing the blood covering her bed, doona and pillows, which she sent to a friend. The video was played before the jury.

The prosecution also relied on a recorded phone conversation between Mr Hayne and his former team mate Mitchell Pearce, during which Hayne described the complainant as a “full blown weirdo” and said she “was filthy” because the taxi was out the front of her house.

He also said: “Oh mate, I’ll get her for defamation, easy.”

Mr Hayne has indicated he intends to lodge an appeal to the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal.

“I’d rather go to gaol knowing I spoke the truth than be a free man living a lie,” Hayne told reporters outside court.

“It’s unfortunate, it’s disappointing but at the end of the day they’ve come to a decision and I respect that.”

Not the first allegation

This is not the first time Mr Hayne has been accused of sexual assault.

In 2015, a woman in the United States claimed he forced himself on her during an incident while he was playing for the San Francisco 49ers.

Hayne was never charged over the alleged incident, with US police finding insufficient evidence for criminal action.

In 2017 the woman sued the footballer in the US District Court for sexual battery, battery, gender violence, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence.

Mr Hayne has always denied the allegations, and the matter was eventually settled out of court for an undisclosed financial sum.

What are the penalties for sexual assault in New South Wales?

Sexual assault is an offence under section 61i of the Crime Act 1900 (NSW) which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.

The offence also carries what is known as a ‘standard non-parole period’; which is a guidepost or reference point for the sentencing judge when deciding how long a convicted person must spend in prison before being eligible to apply for release on parole.

The standard non-parole period for sexual assault is 7 years in prison.

But what penalties are actually imposed?

The Judicial Commission of New South Wales publishes statistics on the penalties imposed by the courts for various offences.

These statistics – known as Judicial Information Research System statistics (or ‘JIRS’ statistics) – are not freely available to the public; a paid subscription is required to access them.

According to the JIRS statistics, 104 defendants were sentenced in New South Wales for the crime of sexual intercourse without consent (or ‘sexual assault’) between 24 September 2018 and 31 December 2019.

99 of those people were sentenced to imprisonment (95.2%), while 5 (4.8%) received a community correction order – which is essentially a good behaviour bond with conditions.

The mean full sentence for those sent to prison was 4 years and 3 months, while the minimum term (also known as a ‘non-parole period’) was 2 years and 6 months.

Of the 47 people who pleaded not guilty to the charge (as Jarryd Hayne did), 46 (97.9%) were sentenced to imprisonment while 1 (2.1%) was given a community correction order.

The mean full sentence for those sent to prison was 5 years, while the mean minimum term was 3 years and 3 months.

Of the 13 people who pleaded not guilty and were aged 31 to 40 years (the age bracket relevant to Mr Hayne), all were sentenced to imprisonment.

The mean full sentence was 6 years in prison, while the mean minimum term was 4 years.

Of the 3 people who pleaded not guilty, were aged 31 to 40 years and had no prior record, all were sent to prison.

The mean full sentence was again 6 years in prison, while the mean minimum term was again 4 years.

Accused of sexual assault?

If you have been accused of sexual assault, it is important to seek advice and representation from a specialist criminal defence firm that is vastly experienced in these cases.

It is a good idea to ensure the firm is an Accredited Specialist Criminal Law firm and to search through their results in sexual assault cases, before making a decision that could greatly impact upon your future.

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Authors

Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim is an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist with over 20 years of experience as a criminal defence lawyer. He is the Principal of Sydney Criminal Lawyers®.

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.

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