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Sext and out – teens facing child porn risk as shift fails | The Advertiser

By Lauren Novak | Political Reporter

YOUNG people who send sexually explicit photos could still be charged with child pornography offences, after a bid by the Opposition to limit such charges was rejected by the State Government.

Attorney-General John Rau released draft laws in December to make it a crime to send an explicit picture of a person aged 17 or younger and imposing a maximum $20,000 penalty or up to four years in jail.

Under the draft law, a teenager or child convicted of the offence could be placed on the child sex offenders register.

The Opposition tried in Parliament, backed by the Law Society of SA, to require approval from the Attorney-General before a young person who sent a sexually explicit image could be charged with child porn offences.

However, Government and crossbench MPs voted down the proposal.

In arguing the case, Liberal MP Andrew McLachlan told Parliament’s Upper House: “The Law Society suggested that there be an extra protection to ensure that young people were not unnecessarily charged with serious offences for activities that can impact their life thereafter due to a moment of foolishness.”

However, Police Minister Peter Malinauskas said it was “unnecessary and undesirable”.

“It is not for any attorney-general to seek to interfere in the exercise of police and prosecutional direction, whether in relation to charging child exploitation offences or other offences,” Mr Malinauskas said.

“It should be emphasised that placement on the child sex offenders register in South Australia is purely discretionary for an individual under 18 years.”

Greens MP Mark Parnell, Family First’s Dennis Hood andXenophon Team MP John Darley spoke against the proposal.

The Law Society of SA supports the Government’s legislation but urged it to adopt a Victorian model that prevents a minor from being charged with a child pornography offence over a sexting image. This applies in cases where a person under 18 appears in a sexually explicit image with another minor, or the young person is less than two years older than others in the image.

In a submission to Mr Rau, Law Society president David Caruso says such a provision would ensure “consensual, non-exploitative sexting between young people does not result in child pornography charges, a criminal record or being placed on the sex offender register”.

Upper House MPs this week approved the legislation with some changes. It must now return to the Lower House for final approval next month.