Following a Tasmanian case in which a 12-year-old girl was prostituted by her mother and her mother’s friend, and the controversial decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions to prosecute only one of the girl’s clients, the Law Reform Institute of Tasmania (‘TLRI’) was called upon to review the crime of sexual intercourse with a young person and the availability of the defence of mistake as to age. Following the release of the TLRI’s final report, Sexual Offences against Young People, late last year the Attorney-General, Brian Wightman announced his intention to introduce legislation strengthening the defence of mistake as to age in relation to sexual offences against young people. The Bill is expected to include many of the TLRI’s recommendations including a requirement that an accused only be able to rely on the defence of mistake as to age in circumstances in which they are able to demonstrate that they took all reasonable steps to ascertain the age of the young person. Whilst the TLRI did not recommend the adoption of a no defence age, the Attorney-General intends to exclude the defence of mistake as to age if the young person involved is
12 years or younger.