The position of inequality between offender and victim and the life long effect on a victim makes sexual crimes against children particularly serious. As such the maximum penalties for these offences can be quite high. For example, the maximum penalty for the offence of Persistent sexual abuse of a child, is imprisonment for life [Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (SA) s 50].
Complaints of sexual interference from children, particularly young children, involve difficulties in investigation and prosecution. Children often have trouble explaining what has happened either because of their lack of understanding or simply because of limited vocabulary and may also have problems with the exact dates that acts occurred.
While a child gives evidence in a child sexual abuse matter, all non-essential persons must be ordered to leave the court [Evidence Act 1929 (SA) s 69(1a)]. However, the child will be allowed to have support person in court with them [Evidence Act 1929 (SA) s 12]. When evidence of child exploitation material is to be adduced in proceedings, similar provisions apply [s 69(1b)].
The evidence of a child who is 14 years old or younger, may also be heard at a pre-trial special hearing under the procedure outlined in s 12AB of the Evidence Act (SA). There are also additional protections that can be put in place to protect a child who is 14 years old or younger when giving evidence in criminal proceedings [Evidence Act 1929 (SA) s 13A].
Sexual offences are covered under the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (SA). Some of the specific provisions relating to children, young people and vulnerable adults are explained in this section. Children, young people and vulnerable adults may also be the victims of the common and other sexual offences covered in the general sexual offences section of this handbook, see Sexual Offences.