One of Australia’s most senior police officers has proposed the introduction of a time-consuming sex consent app where permission can be granted for intercourse.
NSW Police commissioner Mick Fuller said the app – which is already in use in Denmark – would help normalise conversations around consent and how to actively seek it out.
But the long-winded interface would require users to enter their name and age, declare they understand sexual consent, send a request and swipe to accept before any sexual activity can even begin.
The encrypted data is stored on the app in case it is needed for criminal inquiries, although experts have cast doubt on whether it would ever really be used in court.
NSW Police commissioner Mick Fuller told the Today Show on Thursday that 15,000 women in NSW reported sexual violence last year alone
In New South Wales in the 12 months to June 2019, only 1099 of the 14,171 reports of alleged sexual assaults progressed to final charges. Just 376 guilty verdicts were recorded
How the app could potentially work
Enter name and age
Declare you understand what sexual consent is
Send a request to sexual partner
Swipe to accept
The app encrypts and stores the digital agreement
Mr Fuller told the Today show on Thursday that 15,000 women in NSW reported sexual violence last year alone.
‘That’s increasing quicker than any other violent crime. So at the end of the day we can’t ignore the fact that consent is a big issue,’ he said.
‘In many of the cases of sexual violence often a woman has left a restaurant or a pub or a party with someone they think they can trust and sometimes these are friends, neighbours, relatives and they are impaired by alcohol or other substances and that in a way is being concluded by these offenders as consent.
‘You are much more vulnerable to get robbed or have any type of crime happen to you if you don’t have control and awareness of yourself because you are intoxicated.’
Mr Fuller said a consent app could be one of many solutions in curbing sexual violence in Australia.
‘If you are online or dating or looking for friendship you have to be up front with that in terms of what your expectations are from the relationship,’ he said.
‘This app or this concept of implied consent – whether it’s on an app or otherwise – it protects everybody. It’s not the entire solution but the reality is, consent is by far the biggest issue that we are facing.’
His proposal comes a month after Denmark launched its iConsent app which allows users to grant permission for ‘one intercourse’, which is valid for 24 hours and can be withdrawn at any time.
Sex assault reports up 10 per cent in NSW
SEXUAL ASSAULTS ARE UP
* Child victims reporting current sexual assaults – up 21.3 per cent
* Historical child sexual assault reports – up 11.2 per cent
* Adult victims aged 16+ years – up 4.4 per cent
Source: NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research
The Scandinavian country introduced the app after its parliament passed a new law expanding the definition of rape to include any sex without explicit consent.
But the app has met with a frosty reception in Denmark, where one newspaper called it ‘as unsexy as another corona press conference’.
Developers say the app gives people the ‘opportunity to document your consent to intercourse’ by allowing lovers to send and receive requests via their phones.
But they add that ‘consent in the app can never stand alone, and that it is up to you and the other party to secure your consent before, during and after intercourse’.
Users can call up their consent history which the app says is ‘stored on secure servers’ and only shared in the event of a criminal investigation.
Mr Fuller acknowledged such an app in Australia would pose legal challenges, including in cases where sexual consent was granted but later withdrawn.
Legal experts have also raised concerns the app would not stack up in court, with Greg Barns, the national criminal justice spokesman for the Australian Lawyers Alliance, believing it would be ‘difficult to admit into evidence’.
Mr Fuller said the time had come for technology to be utilised to record consent, which can no longer be implied.
‘There is no implied consent. It needs to be positive consent. How do we do that in this day and age? One option is with technology,’ Mr Fuller told The Daily Telegraph.
The digital consent agreement would be encrypted and stored on the app, to be used later if necessary.
Shocking figures have laid bare just how difficult it is for alleged sexual assault victims to have their perpetrators brought to justice.
In New South Wales in the 12 months to June 2019, only 1099 of the 14,171 reports of alleged sexual assaults progressed to final charges. Just 376 guilty verdicts were recorded.
‘When someone, often a young woman, comes forward, police have to explain to them the journey ahead to conviction. It’s a bloody tough one,’ Mr Fuller said.
‘Juries are struggling to come to terms with consent and we’ve seen high-profile matters before the courts with hung juries where they were reputable, decent witnesses.’
The New South Wales Police commissioner has proposed the introduction of an app where users can record consent for sexual activity (stock image)
Mick Fuller (pictured), the New South Wales Police commissioner, said utilising technology was one way people could record their consent before a sexual encounter
Consent is a murky area in New South Wales, with the laws last modified 20 years ago allowing alleged rapists to avoid conviction if they genuinely believe the person is consenting – simply because they didn’t say ‘no’.
New South Wales Police child abuse and sex crimes squad boss Stacey Maloney is now leading a push to overhaul consent laws amid a rise in rapes from dating app meetups.
‘Consent shouldn’t be a confusing area, it should be quite clear that you need to ask for consent essentially. In terms of other jurisdictions, they certainly make that clear,’ she told Nine News last month.
The push for an overhaul comes as a petition by former Kambala student, Chanel Contos, 22, uncovered disturbing allegations against boys from prestigious private schools and led to calls for consent to be taught in schools.
On Monday, thousands rallied across the country, including just outside Parliament House in Canberra, in the March 4 Justice calling on political leaders to make greater strides towards equality and ending violence towards women.