TASMANIANS DE­MAND JUST LET THEM SPEAK

Mercury (Hobart) - - FRONT PAGE - LORETTA LOHBERGER

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.

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