TASMANIANS DEMAND JUST LET THEM SPEAK
TASMANIANS overwhelmingly want the Government to repeal a law that prevents survivors of sexual assault from sharing their story using their own name.
More than 90 per cent of the 1300-plus respondents to the Mercury’s Future Tassie Survey said they supported repealing the law, which is unique to Tasmania and the Northern Territory. Attorney-General Elise Archer said the Government was still considering whether to make the change.
CHANGING the law to give victims of sexual crimes the choice to self-identify in the media in Tasmania is strongly supported by Mercury readers.
Responding to the Future Tassie Survey, 92 per cent of readers said they supported legislative change to give sexual assault survivors the right to self-identify in the media in Tasmania, while 8 per cent said they did not support the change.
The Australian Lawyers Alliance also supports the change.
Under the Evidence Act in Tasmania, victims of sexual crimes cannot be identified unless a court order has been made.
Attorney-General Elise Archer said the State Government was “considering” the section of the Act that prevents sexual assault victims from being identified without a court order, “to ensure it appropriately protects the rights of all victims of sexual assault”.
“It is important that appropriate checks are in place to ensure that where one victim may wish to publicly speak of their experience, that such action does not unduly impact on other victims — such as may be the case with siblings or classmates who may be inadvertently identified,” Ms Archer said.
“We are extremely mindful that care must be taken in this area of law, as it is important that any reform strikes the appropriate balance between protecting victims of sexual assault and the paramount public interest in open justice.’’
Australian Lawyers Al- liance state president Fabiano Cangelosi said protections for victims who did not wish to be identified would be retained if the legislation was drafted in a narrow way.
Mr Cangelosi said the existing provisions that prevented the identification of a victim of a sexual crime would remain unless a victim wanted to speak out and would prevent the identification of other victims, such as siblings and classmates who might be inadvertently identified.
Late last year, a petition signed by more than 5000 people in support of law changes to enable survivors of sexual assault to share their story using their own name without the need for a court order, was presented to the AttorneyGeneral. The petition was part of the joint End Rape on Campus, News Corp Australia and Marque Lawyers #LetHerSpeak campaign.
The campaign was inspired by the story of a Hobart woman who wanted to share her story of being molested by her 58-year-old teacher when she was 15.
The Government will this year try to get its proposal for mandatory minimum senten- ces for child-sex offenders through parliament. Previous attempts did not gain the support of the Legislative Council.
Of the 1362 Mercury readers who completed the survey, 75.5 per cent said they supported mandatory minimum prison sentences for sexual offences against children, with 24.5 per cent against the idea.
Mr Cangelosi said such a change was unnecessary.
“There is no evidence that mandatory sentencing works,” he said.
“There is no evidence that the courts have been falling short in terms of sentencing people.”
Mr Cangelosi said cases where offenders were receiving sentences of less than what is proposed to be the mandatory minimum were exceptional cases, such as someone who was guilty of maintaining a sexual relationship with a young person when the defendant was 20 years old and the complainant is 17 and the relationship consensual.
When asked what were the greatest law enforcement priorities facing Tasmania, 73 per cent said domestic violence, 55 said alcohol fuelled-violence and 54 per cent said child abuse, including sexual abuse.
Respondents were able to nominate more than one priority.
Forty-one per cent said drug trafficking was one of the greatest law enforcement priorities, and 40 per cent said sexual assault.
Almost 80 per cent of respondents said not enough was being done to curb the “ice epidemic” and 66 per cent agreed marijuana for personal use should be decriminalised.