Can consent be uninformed? Suggested reform of sexual offences against persons with intellectual disability

Graydon, Clare (2006) Can consent be uninformed? Suggested reform of sexual offences against persons with intellectual disability. In Social Change in the 21st Century Conference 2006, 27 October 2006, Carseldine, Brisbane.

PDF (53kB)


In R v Morgan (1970), the Supreme Court of Victoria stated that for incapacity to consent to be proved it must be shown that a person "has not sufficient knowledge or understanding to comprehend (a) that what is proposed to be done is the physical fact of penetration of her body by the male organ or, if that is not proved, (b) that the act of penetration proposed is one of sexual connexion as distinct from one of totally different character." It is my contention that this standard of knowledge is insufficient to allow a person to protect themselves against the commonly recognised consequences of sexual acts, namely pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Although the literature suggests that increasing the benchmark of knowledge to encompass these facts would mean that many persons with intellectual disability would be deemed incapable of consent, I argue that consent that is not based on a standard of knowledge sufficient to allow an individual to safeguard their own interests cannot be considered valid consent. Law reform is required so that consent to sexual acts more closely resembles the informed consent required for medical treatment. Moreover, the provision of adequate sex education, repeated as required, would assist many people with intellectual disability to achieve understanding of both the nature and consequences of sexual acts. The proposed reforms would also allow people who, even after education, are unable to meet the requisite standard more certain legal protection than is currently the case.

Impact and interest:

Search Google Scholar™

Citation counts are sourced monthly from Scopus and Web of Science® citation databases.

These databases contain citations from different subsets of available publications and different time periods and thus the citation count from each is usually different. Some works are not in either database and no count is displayed. Scopus includes citations from articles published in 1996 onwards, and Web of Science® generally from 1980 onwards.

Citations counts from the Google Scholar™ indexing service can be viewed at the linked Google Scholar™ search.

Full-text downloads:

4,589 since deposited on 15 Feb 2007
263 in the past twelve months

Full-text downloads displays the total number of times this work’s files (e.g., a PDF) have been downloaded from QUT ePrints as well as the number of downloads in the previous 365 days. The count includes downloads for all files if a work has more than one.

ID Code: 6131
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: consent, intellectual disability, sexuality, sexual offences
ISBN: 1741071291
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > SOCIOLOGY (160800) > Social Change (160805)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES (180000) > LAW (180100) > Criminal Law and Procedure (180110)
Divisions: Past > Research Centres > Centre for Social Change Research
Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > QUT Carseldine - Humanities & Human Services
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2006 Clare Graydon
Deposited On: 15 Feb 2007 00:00
Last Modified: 09 Jun 2010 12:37

Export: EndNote | Dublin Core | BibTeX

Repository Staff Only: item control page