Human rights lawyers say ‘no’ to proposed consent app

March 20, 2021

Australia’s leading association of human rights lawyers has criticised NSW Police Commissioner, Mick Fuller’s, suggestion that the creation of a phone app to record sexual consent could provide a solution to the growing issue of sexual assault. Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) is concerned that the app proposal fundamentally misunderstands the nature of consent and sexual violence.

 “Such an app would be entirely unable to deal with the reality that consent can be revoked at any time during the course of a sexual act and furthermore that consent does not apply to every act that may take place,” says Kerry Weste, President of ALHR. “As such it would appear that rather than protect women and educatively strengthen understandings of consent within our society, an app of this nature could actually risk impeding the prospects of convicting perpetrators and further embed fundamental misunderstandings about the nature of consent and every individual’s absolute right to withdraw it at any time”.

 The Commissioner has acknowledged that the proposed app may not be the appropriate solution, however, stated it served as a means by which to start the conversation about consent. He recognised that the justice system is being overwhelmed by the issue of consent in sexual assault cases and the process for victims was long and difficult, often resulting in no justice at all.

  Cassandra Bourke, Co-Chair of ALHR’s Women and Girls’ Rights Subcommittee says, “The Commissioner is correct that conversations around consent absolutely need to be had. However, proposing solutions that are so fundamentally flawed is perhaps not the best approach to deal with an issue as important as informed consent. The problem with the Commissioner’s proposal is that an app, with its many deficiencies, distracts and detracts from more appropriate solutions already being proposed by human rights and women’s advocates, in particular calls for reform of consent laws in New South Wales.”

 Dr. Leanne Smith, Co-Chair of ALHR’s Women and Girls’ Rights Subcommittee concluded, “The current criminal justice system was not designed to deal with sexual assault. If the reasoning of the Commissioner for creating the app is the weaknesses of the criminal justice system, perhaps it would be better for the NSW Government to instead invest in improving that system for victims.”

Contact: Matt Mitchell, ALHR media manager 0431 980 365.