Two categories of crime created as a sop to conservatives at the time of the decriminalisation of male homosexuality in 1984 have been quietly dropped from the law books in NSW.

The Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Amendment (Standard Minimum Sentencing) Act 2002, which comes into effect on 1 February, provides for mandatory minimum sentences for a range of serious crimes, including sexual intercourse and attempted sexual intercourse with a child under the age of 10. However, two homosexual-specific offences created in 1984 (homosexual intercourse and attempted homosexual intercourse with a child under the age of 10) have been repealed.

Barrister David Buchanan SC described the new Act as being a bit of give and take.

Increasing the penalty for particular gender-neutral offences to the higher level previously only applicable to the male-to-male counterpart offences meant those homosexual-specific offences no longer had any rationale at all, Buchanan said. But the so-called -˜standard minimum sentences’ are considered by many criminal lawyers and criminologists to be a retrograde step. Repeal of two of the homosexual offences sort of softens the blow a bit for the civil liberties lobby and also the gay and lesbian communities.

Another concession given to conservatives at the time of decriminalisation -“ the higher age of consent for gay sex -“ remains as law. A bill calling for an equal age of consent is currently before a parliament committee for investigation, with a report expected in May.

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