NSW adopts affirmative consent in sexual assault laws. What does this mean?

New South Wales Attorney-General Mark Speakman has announced a suite of reforms to consent law, following a two-and-a-half year review by the Law Reform Commission.

The review was prompted by survivor-advocate Saxon Mullins, who endured two trials and two appeals, only to end up with no legal resolution to her rape case. Since then, Mullins has advocated for affirmative consent.

However, the final report from the commission, released in November last year, failed to recommend this standard. Despite this, Speakman has stood alongside Mullins with the promise of a bill that goes beyond the recommendations of the commission — and will make affirmative consent the law in NSW.

The bill announced today changes that course. Speakman has presented reforms that go beyond the Law Reform Commission’s recommendations and, if enacted, would legislate affirmative consent in NSW.

This is because the bill requires that a person who is seeking to raise the defence of “reasonable belief in consent” must demonstrate what actions they took or what words they spoke to ensure they had consent. A failure to do or say something (that is, to “take steps”) to ascertain consent means that any belief in consent will not be reasonable.

Source: NSW adopts affirmative consent in sexual assault laws. What does this mean?

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