System failing sex victims

THE most serious sex offenders sentenced in courts across the Northern Rivers last year will collectively spend more than half a century in jail.

But while this thought may please many people, there are lots of similar offenders who are walking free due to the low reporting rate of sexual offences.

According to NSW Bureau of Crime Research and Statistics, six people found guilty of sexual offences in the Lismore Local and District courts last year received prison sentences which totalled 52 years.

Sexual offences include, but are not limited to, aggravated sexual assault, child pornography offences and procuring a child for prostitution.

In the past five years, the number of persons found guilty of sexual offences in Local Courts across the State increased byalmost 25%.

But these figures are far from a true representation of how many sexual offences occur in the community.

Northern Rivers Community Legal Centre solicitor Fita Norton said there were more women seeking their services than ever before.

But many survivors of sexual offences will never report their harrowing ordeals.

“About 85% of sexual offences that happen will never come to the attention of the court system or police,” she said.

“People are not reporting it when it happens and then there is a time lag and it becomes harder to prove. Some survivors drop out because it's taking so long to get through and it's costing them, the psychological damage is continued.

“They have to be survivors of their experience and survivors of the criminal justice system.”

Last month, a Lismore man received a nine-year jail term for indecently assaulting three women after breaking into their homes in 2009.

In April, a 54-year-old man was placed on a four-year good behaviour bond for rubbing a young relative's vagina on the outside of her clothing while she was in his care at Lennox Head.

Ms Norton said there had been a shift in the way sexual offences were dealt with, meaning there needed to be a “premise of positive consent.”

“There is a need to demonstrate a positive consent in engaging in intercourse. But a lot of times there is just not enough evidence,” she said.

Penalties for Northern Rivers sex offenders

  • Imprisonment 6
  • Suspended sentence 5
  • Probation order 1
  • Bond 14
  • Fine 3
  • No conviction 3

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