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The Sext Files: when a child is labelled a s-x offender

Even when courts dismiss charges of sexting, young people are still punished with inclusion on the Sex Offenders’ Register, writes Swinburne University journalism student Alice Krieger.

A man who filmed a consensual explicit video of his girlfriend when he was 17 has been treated as an adult before the courts and has ended up on the S-x Offenders’ Register, despite a court claiming it was unnecessary.

The case, involving a person who is only identified as “A,” is detailed in a submission to the Victorian parliamentary inquiry into s-xting. The man was a minor when he shot the video of his girlfriend but was 19-years-old when he emailed two stills images from the video to three friends. By this stage he and his girlfriend had broken up.

The stills images were shot from behind showing the then 17-year-old girl wearing a bra. It is not clear how much other detail is revealed in the pictures.  No copies of the video or photos have been located or shown in court.

The submission — which appears to have been written by one of A’s parents — explains that the man pleaded guilty to two charges of making and transmitting child p-rnography. The magistrate found that it was “most unlikely” that he would re-offend and fined him $1000. The magistrate also expressed surprise that the Children’s Court had not heard the case given that A was a child at the time the images were filmed.

According to the submission, “neither the prosecutor or the magistrate saw any reason that A be placed on the S-x Offenders’ Register or any other form of supervision”.

Despite this, five months later A was called back to the court to be placed on the register. He believed he had avoided this when the case was dismissed. However the police later informed him that the chief commissioner of Victoria Police had put him on the register because registration was mandatory.

A’s parent describes the whole experience as “a very traumatic saga”.

Greg Barns, a barrister and spokesperson for the Australian Lawyers Alliance, told Crikey there is an argument for not putting people under the age of 18 on the register, as it serves no community purpose: ”What purpose is served? I would say none.”

In May this year, A appeared again at the Magistrate’s Court after being found in breach of the conditions of the register. The submission claims his breach was that he failed to disclose the motorcycle he had purchased for his girlfriend was registered in his name. A was fined $400, but again, no conviction was recorded.

Following this, A’s period on the register increased from eight to 15 years. The submission suggests this was because A sent the same image in three separate emails, and that this was therefore considered to be more than one offence, even though the emails were sent within minutes of each other.

According to Barns, mandatory listing on the register is “cruel because it doesn’t allow for justice”. He says young people participate in s-xting with no intent to commit a criminal act and the S-x Offenders’ Register was not designed for children or young people.

Crikey and Swinburne University have teamed up to trawl through the 60 submissions to the Victorian parliamentary inquiry on s-xting. More to come.

3
  • 1
    Korinne Northwood
    Posted Friday, 12 October 2012 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    A may have been a child when he took the image (presumably with the gf’s consent), but he was an adult of 19 when he distributed the image to friends (presumably without the gf’s consent).

    While I agree that the sex offender’s register is perhaps too blunt a punishment in this case, the crime was committed when he was an adult, and is reprehensible.

    Distributing sexual images without consent should be a crime, and especially so when the person in the picture is a child at the time the photo is taken.

  • 2
    muruk
    Posted Friday, 12 October 2012 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

    Australians are becoming so sensitive about any little thing these days. Almost anything is branded as being reprehensible (or any other adjective) and in need of condemnation (or criminalisation). We tend to forget that the average Jo or Joe in Australia is safer healthier and wealthier than 997 of every 1000 people on this planet. Every day all over the world children and adults in their normal lives die horribly of starvation disease and violence. That is truly reprehensible, but we dont care on our safe big island. We are pathetically disconnected from reality.

  • 3
    tripper
    Posted Saturday, 13 October 2012 at 12:55 am | Permalink

    @Korinne. I agree, with the exception that I do think he deserves to go on the sex offenders list. Its the law and he was an adult when he distributed child pornography. He needs to suck it up.

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