Sex, lies, videotape & the law.

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Hand on a KeyboardWritten by Bill Doogue. Partner, Doogue + George Defence Lawyers, Melbourne.

In light of the latest footy/sex scandal, the usual frenzy of photos, reports, opinions and surmising, it is important we clarify one point.

At this stage it appears Ricky Nixon has done nothing illegal. Even if he did have sex with a 17-year-old girl, there is nothing illegal in that by itself. The age of consent is 16, unless there are other factors involved that include a duty of care or position of authority, which seem not to be applicable in this case.

This entire saga, from the beginning, does bring to light the new challenges that we face in this new-media-instant-broadcast-to-the-world society. Most of this story has unfolded due to the readiness and availability of camera devices and the ability to digitally broadcast them in an instant. In this case, with Ricky facing the lens there is no wrong-doing. Had the camera been facing the other way, there would be many legal ramifications. Sex with a 17-year-old-girl is legal. Taking photos of a person under the age of 18 nude or in a sexual pose can be production of child pornography. Consensual or not.

This introduces a very real, however unfortunate, trap for young people who unwittingly photograph friends or partners in stages of undress or explicit poses. The stark reality is a criminal conviction and being placed on the Sex Offender Register.

Apart from the obvious personal distress faced by those left in the wake of this whole situation, which was all set in motion by a digital camera, there are some very serious social and societal impacts that should be monitored as the gap between technology’s lightning pace and the law becomes wider.

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