New Zealand

calls for changes to New Zealand law after rapist claims he had sex with ‘consensual’ 12-year-old | New Zealand

The questioning of a victim accused in court of ‘consenting’ to sex with an adult when she was 12 has thrust New Zealand’s sexual assault laws into the spotlight, with advocates lobbying for a total overhaul.

The attacker, Tulisi Leiataua, was found guilty this week of 33 charges of sexually abusing two girls. His youngest victim was 8 years old when the abuse began. Both victims faced two weeks of grueling cross-examination, and it was the nature of Leiataua’s defence, rather than the final outcome of the trial, that caused an uproar among New Zealand lawyers.

Leiataua argued at trial that his assault on one of the girls, who was 12 at the time of the assaults, was “consensual”, that she had “pursued him”, and therefore was not a of a rape.

His defense used an element of New Zealand law that is not widely understood by the public – that while the age of consent is generally 16 in New Zealand, consent is still a legal defense available to people. accused of sexual violation by rape. Proponents say this should change, to ensure that children cannot be considered consenting parties to sexual activity with adults.

“There definitely needs to be change,” said Kathryn McPhillips, executive director of sex abuse organization HELP. She said it was “unethical to push these ideas that a child might consent… It’s out of step with what the general population thinks our law is.”

McPhillips said being accused in court of lying and consenting to sexual activity resulted in additional trauma for victims, especially children. “As an adult, it’s bad enough to be blamed for something done to you, intentional harm done to you. That’s bad enough – but being a child?

“When an adult did this to you, and another adult accuses you of it in court…it’s layer after layer of being the world upside down, where the rights of all those adults to hurt you are sanctioned by the state.”

Judge Richard Earwaker, who presided over the case, addressed the issue of consent for a person under 16 in the final days of the trial, the New Zealand Herald reported.

“Legally, a person under the age of 16 cannot give consent for indecent acts charges, so as a jury all you have to decide is whether the indecent acts took place,” he said. he declares. “But as with sexual intercourse, a person under the age of 16 can give consent. You must determine whether or not consent has been given based on the evidence you have.

Defense attorney Mark Edgar argued the victim had entered into a consensual relationship which she now regretted.

“Has she let go of not remembering because she has regrets? She was probably too young to appreciate it, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t want to accept it,” he said.

Leiataua was found guilty in the Manukau District Court of four counts of sexual offense of rape, three counts of indecent act with a youth, one count of indecent assault, 10 counts of misdemeanor sexual intercourse, seven counts of other sexual offences. , two counts of other assault on a child and six counts of indecent act on a child.

Layba Zubair, a 17-year-old lawyer and activist, has launched a petition in parliament for an overhaul of New Zealand’s consent laws, arguing that “the definition of consent in our current laws does not reflect the need for a free and voluntary agreement at the time of the act”.

She said New Zealand’s legislation needed urgent review and the country could consider affirmative consent laws such as those introduced in New South Wales this year. “The fact that our consent laws don’t even have a definition of consent, and the fact that our laws don’t protect people as young as 12, it’s just horrifying,” she said. .

Zubair said she was appalled that lawyers could claim a 12-year-old child can give consent. “A lawyer is trying to do his job,” she said, “but the fact that the law allows him to make that argument and the fact that the law backs it up…is disgusting.”

In 2021, a study commissioned by the Chief Victims Advisor – an official role that provides independent advice to the Minister of Justice – examined transcripts of cross-examinations of children and adolescents from 15 sexual abuse trials. She saw the children being harassed, explicitly accused of lying and asked if they enjoyed being abused. “It’s clear that child witnesses need a lot more support and protection than they currently have,” said senior victims’ counsel at the time, Dr Kim McGregor.

Justice Minister Kiri Allen said court reporters for Open Justice that she had sought advice on consent laws.

  • Information and support for anyone affected by issues of rape or sexual abuse is available from the following organisations. In the USA, Rain offers assistance at 800-656-4673. United Kingdom, rape crisis offers assistance on 0808 802 9999. In Australia, assistance is available on 1800Respect (1800 737 732). In New Zealand, support is available on Safe to Talk – 0800 044 334 or free text 4334. Other international helplines are available at ibiblio.org/rcip/internl.html

calls for changes to New Zealand law after rapist claims he had sex with ‘consensual’ 12-year-old | New Zealand

Source link calls for changes to New Zealand law after rapist claims he had sex with ‘consensual’ 12-year-old | New Zealand

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