Over the past decade, the issue of sexual assault is one that has needed significant law reform. Sexual assault refers to the criminal offences involving unwanted sexual contact or acts, including unwanted touching, groping, indecent acts of other kinds, and rape. Law reform is the process of reviewing existing laws and introducing changes to them with the aim of improving justice or efficiency. In the issue of sexual assault, justice is particularly important. The state needs to balance the rights of the accused and the interests of the individuals and the community. In recent times, law reform has been motivated because the criminal justice system was failing to deliver just outcomes for the victims and the community.
The Need for Law Reform
The conditions that give rise to the need for law reform relates directly to how the laws are changed. The conditions for law reform in the area of sexual assault involve providing victims with fair outcomes and higher satisfaction, particularly in the conviction rate of these crimes.
Sexual assault offences are the least reported crimes in NSW, with only 15-20% being reported in 2004. Out of the reported offences, an estimated 2% were convicted. Even being compared to all other categories of crime it is a small conviction rate. These conditions gave rise to the need for law reform, and research into why both the rate of reporting the crimes, and the conviction rate were so low. ‘Why Sexual Violence is Almost Legal’1 gives an insight into the delay and lack of convictions in this area. Research found that many victims believed that they wouldn’t win their case, and so they didn’t report it. In 70% of the cases, the offender is known to the victim which makes the proof even more difficult. This is because the case is usually replying on one person’s word against the other, unless there is convincing physical evidence. Physical evidence for this also needs to be examined, which is an issue if the