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Sexting teens could end up on sex offender register

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The WA AIDS Council is calling on the State Government to introduce legislation to protect sexting teenagers from being placed on the sex offenders register for sending explicit images via smart phones. Gary Adshead spoke to Andrew Burry from the WA AIDS Council.

Laws recently introduced in Victoria make it an offence for anyone to maliciously send or threaten to send intimate pictures of another person without their consent. However, if all parties involved in the sexting consent to the images being exchanged, those under the age of 18 will not break the law.

The council’s CEO Andrew Burry said WA’s current laws did not provide that protection.

"People that are under the age of 18 who send intimate pictures from themselves to their regular partner, who may also be under 18, actually fall foul of the law and could potentially be put on the sex offenders list," he said.

He said this was creating issues for teenagers. "Prosecuting teens in stable relationships is excessive, while at the same time, individuals must be protected from the damaging effects of their private messages being shared," Mr Burry said.

"We know the growth in electronic-based communication [is] continuing at a significant rate, which means that people are putting themselves at risk of an offence without realising they are doing that.

"We also think it’s important to remind everybody of the potential implications of sending intimate information electronically to another person.

"But it is better that we have a law that protects you from unnecessary and unwelcome consequences."

Mr Burry said reform was needed.