Project 113 – Sexual Offences

Independent report
Commenced: 2021
Last updated:

Terms of Reference

Pursuant to section 11(2)(b) of the Law Reform Commission Act 1972 (WA), the Law Reform Commission of Western Australia is to review Chapter XXXI of the Criminal Code Compilation Act 1913 (WA) (Code) and sections 186, 191 and 192 of the Code and provide advice for consideration by the Western Australian Government on possible amendments to enhance and update these provisions (and related or ancillary provisions or legal rules), having regard to contemporary understanding of, and community expectations relating to, sexual offences.

In carrying out its review, the Commission

  1. having regard to the in-principle support of the Western Australian Government to legislative amendment to address certain matters arising out of the Criminal Justice Report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, should not review or report on the matters identified in Schedule 1;  
  1. should consider whether there is a need for any reform and, if so, the scope of reform regarding the law relating to consent (including knowledge of consent) and, in particular:
  1. whether the concept of affirmative consent should be reflected in the legislation;
  2. how section 24 of the Code (dealing with mistake of fact) applies to the offences created by the above-mentioned provisions;
  3. how consent may be vitiated, including through coercion, fraud or deception, for example, through "stealthing"; and
  4.  whether special verdicts should be used.

Schedule 1 

  1. Section 321A of the Code (Persistent sexual conduct with a child under 16 years), including related evidentiary provisions and the maximum penalty for the offence. 
  2. Similar age defence to Section 321of the Code (sexual offences against a child over 13 but under 16 years). 
  3. New offence of grooming a child or other person under whose care, supervision or authority the child is under, for sex. 
  4. New offence of failing to protect a child from sexual abuse in an institution, and concealing and failing to report child sexual abuse. 

*Note: These Terms of Reference were amended on 28 July 2023.

The content of documents published under this reference or the participation in consultation may evoke feelings of distress. Support is available.

In an emergency, or if you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call the police now on 000.

Sexual Assault Resource Centre Crisis Counselling: 08 6458 1828 or 1800 199 888 (8.30 am – 11.00 pm, 7 days a week)

1800Respect: 1800 737 732 (24 hours, 7 days a week)

Another review, separate from Project 113, is currently being undertaken by the Office of Commissioner for Victims of Crime.

The Office of Commissioner for Victims of Crime is leading a review into the experience of sexual violence victim-survivors in the criminal justice system. The review will examine the complete process, from reporting an offence to the time an offender is released from custody. The experiences and needs of diverse groups of victim-survivors will be considered to identify opportunities for system reform.

As part of the review, the following will be investigated:

  • Experiences of adult victim-survivors (regardless of their age when the relevant sexual offending occurred) with the criminal justice system.
  • Factors which contribute to under-reporting of sexual offences, and why people report but do not continue with the formal legal process.
  • Alternative and innovative processes or procedures for receiving, investigating and resolving (through prosecution or otherwise) sexual offence complaints that are consistent with victim-survivors' interests and the interests of justice – for example, restorative justice processes.

For further information, visit Review of criminal justice responses to sexual offending.

Current status

The Commission has now completed the Final Report for Project 113 and submitted it to the Attorney General for tabling in Parliament. Further updates will be available on this page.

On 10 February 2023, the Commission released Volume 2 (Offences and Maximum Penalties) of a Discussion Paper which outlines options and poses questions about changing Western Australia’s sexual offence laws. This follows on from the release of Volume 1 (Objectives, Consent and Mistake of Fact) and Background Paper on 20 December 2022.

A series of short Issues Papers dealing with individual topics discussed in Volume 1 of the Discussion Paper has also been prepared to assist you to understand individual topics and access information in the Discussion Paper.

Individuals and organisations were invited to provide submission or complete an online survey on one or more of the options and questions in Volume 1 and Volume 2 of the Discussion Paper and Background Paper. The Commission also held consultations with reference groups, organisations or persons who wished to contribute to law reform in this area.