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FAQ

New South Wales

 

Q: Hey, my name is Steph and I live in Coffs Harbour. I am 15 years old, turning 16 soon. My boyfriend is 20 and I am pregnant. We both agreed to have sex and I don’t want an abortion. Will either of us get into trouble?


A: Hi Steph,

The most important thing is that you are healthy, safe and getting the support you need during your pregnancy. We strongly recommend that you go to a doctor, if you have not already. Steph, you cannot and will not get in any trouble, but it is possible that your boyfriend could get in trouble.

 

What does the law say about underage sex?

The law says that someone who is 16 or older can have sex with another person who is also older than 16 as long as they both agree.

If a person is under 16 years of age, the law says they cannot legally agree to have sex. So even if you said yes to sex, because you are under 16, your boyfriend can be charged with a crime.

Whether he will actually be charged for this if the police find out can depend on a lot of things, including:

  • whether you and your family wish to have him charged with a crime;
  • whether anyone reports what has happened to the police (it may be mandatory for a person who is aware of the crime to report it);
  • whether the police decide a criminal charge is appropriate; 
  • how old you were when you first had sex; and 
  • the nature of your relationship

We recommend that your boyfriend seek legal advice from Legal Aid New South Wales on 1300 888 529.
 

 

What is mandatory reporting?

Under New South Wales law, doctors or nurses may be required to report to child safety authorities if they believe you have been harmed or are at risk of being harmed. Because you are pregnant and under 16 they may report this.

Whether they think they have to report the situation will depend on things like:

  • whether the sex was consensual,
  • whether you are in a healthy relationship, and 
  • whether there has been a negative effect on your psychological or emotional wellbeing.


If your pregnancy is reported to child safety authorities, then they may contact you to see if you're okay. If they think that you're okay, then they may not contact the police. If they do contact the police, then the police can decide what the most appropriate action is in the circumstances.

They do NOT press charges in every situation where a law has been broken.

If you want to reduce the risk of your boyfriend being charged, you can refuse to tell anyone who the father is, including on the child's birth certificate, but this might cause issues in the future. This might be something you wish to talk about with the contacts we have given you below.

 

Where can you get health care, information and support?

The most important thing is that you are healthy, safe and supported. We strongly encourage you to make an appointment with a doctor who can look after you during your pregnancy.

Free medical treatment is provided to all Australian citizens and permanent residents through the Medicare system.

You can call Talkline on 1300 658 886 for sexual health information and referrals.

 

Talk to your parents or a trusted adult

We encourage you to talk to both your parents and your boyfriend’s parents, if you can, about your pregnancy. If it isn’t easy to talk to your parents by yourself, you could ask someone else, like a family friend, relative, or your family doctor to talk to your parents with you.

You can also call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak with a trained counsellor for information, advice and counselling about all aspects of pregnancy, childbirth and your baby’s first year. You can call them on 1800 882 436.

 

More information

For more information about being pregnant you can visit these websites:


If you have any further questions, please send us a Lawmail from www.lawstuff.org.au/lawmail

Page last updated on 18 July 2015.



 


Q: Hi! I’m Maddy and I'm 15. My boyfriend is 23. We have been together for a while now and I'm pregnant. We want to raise our baby together. What will happen to my boyfriend when they find out his age? Will he get charged?

A: Dear Maddy,

Maddy, the most important thing is that you are healthy and safe. If you haven't been to a doctor yet, we encourage you to call Family Planning NSW's Talkline for a referral to health care services near you on 1300 658 886.

It's against the law in NSW for a person to have sex with someone who is under 16. If somebody makes a report to the police, then it's possible for your boyfriend to be charged with a crime, but we cannot say what will happen if the police get involved.

 

What is the age of consent?

In NSW, it is against the law for a person to have sex with someone who is under 16, even if they agree. You will not get into trouble for having sex while you were under 16, but you boyfriend could get in trouble if someone reports it to the police and they think it is appropriate to charge him, after considering all the circumstances.

If the police contact your boyfriend, he should get free legal advice straight away by calling LawAccess on 1300 888 529. He does not have to speak with the police or tell them anything without a lawyer present.

 

Where can you get more information and support?

We strongly encourage you to make an appointment with a doctor who can look after you during your pregnancy. Free medical treatment is provided to all Australian citizens and permanent residents through the Medicare system.

There are health and pregnancy support services throughout NSW. You can call Talkline on 1300 658 886 for sexual health information and referrals.

These services only have an obligation to report your situation to the Department of Community Services if they reasonably believe that you are at risk of significant harm.

They do NOT have to report something just because it could be against the law. So please don't hesitate to go see them. If you'd like some assurance about confidentiality, you can call ahead and ask what their policy is.

If you would like to chat about how you're feeling, you can call a counsellor from Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or visit their website here:  http://www.kidshelp.com.au/

If you have any further questions, please send us a Lawmail from www.lawstuff.org.au/lawmail

Page last updated on 18 July 2015.


 


Q: Hi I’m Andy and I’m 16 years old. My girlfriend just turned 16, but she’s 12 weeks pregnant. Can I get in trouble for having underage sex?


A: Hi Andy,

Andy, we hope that you and your girlfriend are healthy and safe.

NSW law makes sex with a person under 16 a crime. This means that you can possibly be charged with a crime if you had sex with your girlfriend when she was under 16, but you might not be, depending on the circumstances.

 

What does the law say about the age of consent?

The age of consent is the age at which the law says a person can agree to have sex. In NSW, this is 16.

If a person is under the age of consent, the law says they cannot legally agree to have sex. So even if your girlfriend said yes to sex when she was under 16, a person who had sex with her can be charged with a crime.

For more information about the age of consent and sex in NSW, see our NSW Lawstuff page at http://www.lawstuff.org.au/nsw_law/topics/sex/article.

 

Can you be charged for having underage sex?

Whether you will actually be charged depends on a lot of things, including:

  • whether your girlfriend and her family wish to have you charged with a criminal offence
  • whether anyone reports what has happened to the police
  • whether the police decide a criminal charge is appropriate 
  • how close your girlfriend was to being 16 when you first had sex with her.

 

What happens if someone tells the police?

We can't say exactly what would happen if someone told the police. It depends on all the circumstances. If you and your girlfriend are very close in age, we think it’s unlikely the police would charge you with an offence if you can also show that your girlfriend consented to sex with you, you have a good and loving relationship and that your girlfriend and her parents don’t wish to have you charged with a crime.

We can't guarantee that the police won’t charge you for what has happened if your relationship with your girlfriend is no longer good, or if it becomes abusive or harmful, or if her parents are angry.

 

What happens if the police try to talk to you?

The NSW Police are allowed to require you to give them your name and address and to provide identification, if they think you have been involved in a crime. It is against the law for you to refuse this or to give them false information.

Other than this, however, you do NOT have to give any information to the police, even if they say that they are arresting you. If you are questioned by police you should remain silent until you can get some legal advice.

If the police ask you for an interview, you should get legal assistance before going to the interview and not say anything else. You can find your closest Community Legal Centre by typing in your post code here: http://www.naclc.org.au/clc_directory.php

 

What you can do?


We think it would be a really good idea for you to talk to your parents and your girlfriend’s parents about the situation. You may also like to talk to a social worker or a parenthood centre that can explain all the options going forward to you and your girlfriend.

  • Children by Choice has some useful information on its website about pregnancy: http://www.childrenbychoice.org.au/
  • Pregnancy Birth & Baby has a 24 hour helpline giving advice and support to young people facing pregnancy. You can call them  on 1800 882 436.
  • If you would like to talk to someone about how you're feeling, you can call a counsellor from Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or visit their website here: http://www.kidshelp.com.au/


If you have any further questions, please send us a Lawmail from www.lawstuff.org.au/lawmail

Page last updated on 18 July 2015.

        
 

   
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