Lawyer criticises child sex crime name change
THE "very poor name" of a criminal offence involving sex crimes against children will be changed after ongoing pressure on the State Government.
While news the charge of "maintaining a sexual relationship with a young person" will be changed has been largely welcomed, criminal defence lawyer and Australian Lawyers Alliance Tasmanian president Fabiano Cangelosi said the current name had "merit" and was "tonally neutral".
Mr Cangelosi said the proposed new name of "persistent sexual abuse of a child or young person", announced by Attorney-General Elise Archer in parliament this week, had "a heightened tone of disapproval".
"Names of offences should not be loaded in this way," he said.
The proposed change follows sex abuse survivor Grace Tame's fight to publicly tell her story and acknowledge what happened to her was "not a relationship" but an "insidious and calculated crime".
Lawyer Sebastian Buscemi, who is representing child sex survivors in their fight for compensation against Tasmania's government, said the name change was "really important".
"A young person is at law incapable of providing consent … it isn't a sexual relationship in any sense of the word," he said.
"The current 'maintaining a sexual relationship' implies a degree of culpability, responsibility and fault on the part of the child, even though the same legislation makes clear the 'relationship' being 'maintained' is incapable of being consented to."
Ms Archer said the Bill was a step toward exposing the realities of child sexual abuse, and that renaming the crime helped give it the "condemnation that it deserves".
Meanwhile, Shadow Attorney-General Ella Haddad said she supported the move because the "current wording is wrong", adding Labor moved the amendment back in 2018.
Last month, during the trial of serial child sex offender Darrel George Harington, Supreme Court of Tasmania judge Michael Brett said the charge had often been acknowledged as a "very poor name for this particular crime".
He said the crime "has nothing do with a relationship" but was constituted when an offender committed three or more sexual crimes against a minor in a specified period of time, with those offences "effectively bundled together".
In the past month alone, several Tasmanian paedophiles have been sentenced over the "maintaining" crime, including one man who started molesting his friend's daughter when she was five years old and he was 45.
Another two recently-sentenced Tasmanians have molested children aged eight and 12.