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Top cop proposes sex consent app

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NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller says an app could be used by couples to establish and record mutual consent before engaging in sex.

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But the idea has been met with scepticism from the women’s safety sector and some politicians.

The Commissioner said he had discussed the consent app with Attorney-General Mark Speakman and Police Minister David Elliott.

“The conversation around sex and consent seems to be anchored to the ’50s and ­clearly it isn’t working,” Fuller wrote in an opinion piece published by Sydney’s Daily Telegraph.

Consent apps could normalise conversations around consent and formalise the habit of actively seeking consent.

“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,” Fuller said.

“People say ‘how unromantic is that’. But think of how many people are looking for friendship and love online – it’s not as though technology and dating are foreign to us.”

He conceded an app could provide challenges, such as if someone withdrew consent after agreeing.

Fuller told Channel 9 sexual violence was increasing faster than other violent crime, with 15,000 reports in NSW last year.

Offenders were assuming consent when a woman had consumed alcohol “and clearly that can’t be the standard”, he said.

“At the same time you may have a son or a brother and you think this is too challenging but this app … protects everybody.”

Labor’s police spokeswoman Lynda Voltz, told AAP “we should have a conversation about all options” but said it would be “problematic” if the app implied consent.

“Where you have women that are subject to violence, where you have grooming and coercion, a woman having signed on to an app doesn’t necessarily imply that they’ve consented of their own free will,” she said.

Consent was already a stumbling block for many sexual assault criminal trials and the law needs to be changed, she said.

“Will signing an app mean that consent has been given and that sexual assault proceedings can’t progress? That’s questionable.

“The question is whether the commissioner thinks this is a defence in law or not,” she said.

NSW Greens MP Jenny Leong criticised the proposal in a tweet.

“We need consent law reform, we need holistic consent education, we need to stop men feeling they are entitled to whatever they want, we need an independent complaints process, we need justice. We need equality. WE DO NOT NEED AN APP!!”

CEO of Women’s Safety NSW, Hayley Foster, said it was “fantastic” that police were acknowledging the need for affirmative consent, but urged Mr Fuller to consider the evidence-based proposals she and her colleagues had been putting forward for years.

“It’s another example of governments not listening to women’s safety services, women victim-survivors, women in general,” she said.

“It does feel a little disrespectful of our expertise.”

Foster said that unless perpetrators were held to account in the justice system they will be free to continue offending.

At most, 1.5 per cent of sexual predators are held to account currently, she said.

She named reforms to consent laws, procedural laws around how people give evidence and the type of evidence that can be admitted in sexual assault trials, and training for police were some of the reforms needed.

-AAP

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