Sex Work and the Law (Tas)

In Tasmania, street prostitution and brothels are illegal under the Sex Industry Offences Act 2005. It is also an offence to knowingly engage the services of a sex worker in a commercial business setting. However, one individual or a pair working in partnership can engage in sex work as long as neither employs nor manages the other. In that circumstance, sex work is legal under certain further conditions. This article explains the intersection between sex work and the law in Tasmania.

History

Tasmania has historically treated sex work as a heavily criminalised industry. Prior to the introduction of the Sex Industry Offences Act, prostitution was an offence under the Police Offences Act 1935. Sex workers and their associates were arrested for “running a bawdy house” and “living off the earnings of prostitution”.

Legal Sex Work Tasmania

Private sex work is now legal in Tasmania. A sex worker can provide services from a hotel or private residence. A person must not (without reasonable excuse) provide or receive sexual services when a child is on the premises. The penalty is at most 20 penalty units.

Sex workers and clients must take all reasonable steps to minimise the risk of spreading sexually transmitted diseases. A sex worker must use a prophylactic in any work that has a risk of acquiring or spreading a sexually transmitted infection or disease. A person giving or receiving sexual services must not discourage the use of prophylactics or tamper with or continue to use a prophylactic knowing it is damaged. A person in breach of these rules may be fined up to 500 penalty units.

Illegal Sex Work Tasmania

A person must not loiter, solicit, or accost someone for the purpose of offering or procuring sexual services. It is also prohibited for anyone to operate a commercial business that employs, controls or profits from the labour of sex workers. A person who is not a self-employed sex worker cannot manage or control a sexual services business. This prohibits anyone from profiting from the exploitation of a sex worker in Tasmania.

It is illegal for someone to knowingly receive sexual services from a sex worker in a commercial business (that is, a brothel). This offence is punishable by a maximum fine of 100 penalty units or maximum imprisonment for one year, or a combined fine and term of imprisonment. The person will not be prosecuted if he or she agrees to give evidence in court admitting that they received commercial sexual services. It is irrelevant whether the person actually testifies in court, as long as they are willing to appear.

Participation of children is strictly prohibited in a sexual services business. A person must not cause, permit, or procure a child to provide sexual services. A person also cannot receive a fee if they could reasonably know that it was derived from a child’s sexual services. The maximum penalty is imprisonment for fifteen years. It is a defence against this charge for the accused to believe that the child was over the age of consent as long as they took all reasonable steps to ascertain their age.

In addition to the powers conferred under common law, a police officer may arrest (without warrant) anyone they reasonably believe committed or is currently committing or will commit any of these offences. The police officer can require that person to give their identification details. A police officer of sergeant rank or above may use reasonable force to enter premises without a warrant to prevent, investigate or apprehend an offender. A police officer of lower rank may exercise this power to prevent the commission of these offences.

Assault On A Sexual Worker

Section 7 of the Act outlines specific offences against a sex worker in Tasmania. A person must not assault, intimidate, or threaten a sex worker. It is an offence to supply or offer to provide a restricted or prohibited substance to a sex worker. In the same way, it is illegal to administer any drug to a sex worker with the intent to overpower or stupefy. These offences attract a maximum fine of 500 penalty units or a maximum of five years imprisonment.

It is a more serious matter for someone to commit any offences to induce another person to provide or continue to provide sex work to clients. It is illegal for a person to assault, intimidate, or threaten a sex worker into compliance. It is also an offence to make a false representation or exert any other type of unfair pressure on the person (such as threatening deportation) to make them comply. The penalty for this offence is a maximum of 1500 penalty units or imprisonment for fifteen years or both.

Contact Go To Court’s criminal lawyers for further legal advice on sex work in Tasmania. For legal representation or guidance on this or any other legal matter, please call 1300 636 846.

Author

Nicola Bowes

Dr Nicola Bowes holds a Bachelor of Arts with first-class honours from the University of Tasmania, a Bachelor of Laws with first-class honours from the Queensland University of Technology, and a PhD from The University of Queensland. After a decade of working in higher education, Nicola joined Go To Court Lawyers in 2020.
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