Victorians face a new crackdown on sexual crimes, with the state government mulling plans to introduce new offences to cover "sexual touching" and sexual grooming.
The moves are part of law reforms aimed at punishing more child sex offenders and reducing successful appeals.
The government released a public consultation paper on its review of sexual offences on Thursday.
The paper details a number of its proposed changes to current laws, including increasing the maximum penalty available for many offences.
The new offences include:
- Compelling sexual touching.
- Performing a sexual act intended to cause another person to experience fear or distress.
- Grooming a child under 16 for sexual conduct, which would include online, face-to-face and other means of grooming.
The public can make written submissions on the review, which includes questions about certain aspects of the laws, until 20 December.
Attorney-General Robert Clark will introduce reforms after he receives advice from the Department of Justice, which will be based in part on public submissions.
In the wake of the state inquiry into the handling of child abuse, the paper also acknowledged that current laws were "failing to respond adequately to the problem of persistent sexual abuse of a child."
Ahead of the inquiry's recommendations, which are due to be published on 15 November, the state government plans to create three new crimes relating to sexual intercourse with a child, including children who are under the "care, supervision or authority' of the accused person."
This would include "religious organisations who provide religious care or religious instruction to a child."
Those convicted of some child sexual offences would also face longer sentences under the changes. The paper proposed raising the maximum penalty for assault with intent to rape and for sexual intercourse with a child under 16, from 10 to 15 years' imprisonment.
The paper said the reforms would simplify and modernise many existing sexual assault offences, to make it easier to prosecute such offences. It also aimed to reduce the number of successful appeals against convictions for sexual offences.
"Simpler and clearer offences will assist judges to direct juries, and juries to understand and apply the law. This will help to reduce successful appeals against conviction for a sexual offence," it said.
"A better functioning criminal justice system will help to improve the experience of victims/survivors who report a sexual offence to the police."