Confronting ‘sext’ education in courtroom

THERE was a tense moment in the Latrobe Valley Children’s Court on Friday afternoon as Magistrate Clive Alsop addressed a 16 year-old boy on the consequences of his actions in possessing and distributing what constituted child pornography on his mobile phone.

Before a fully-packed courtroom of more than 60 people, Mr Alsop handed down a sentence to “Albert A” for having and distributing a sexually explicit image of his girlfriend “Nancy N” to his mate “Ernest E”.

“This magistrate has seen dozens of offences such as this before the court; you have heard the impact on the lives (of everyone involved),” Mr Alsop said, adding the offence was a serious one.

“I have done the maths, and if one person sends this image to 20 people, and they send it to 20 others, in nine minutes, 3.2 million people could have seen naked pictures of a child.”

The confronting information was provided to year nine students of Lavalla Catholic College from both Traralgon and Newborough campuses, who attended the mock court session pertaining to “sexting” and the impact it could have on the lives of the victims and those who have been accused of the crime.

Sexting is the act of sending sexually explicit messages or photographs primarily between mobile phone users.

The students witnessed the mock court proceedings as one of their classmates, who volunteered to act as Albert A, had his case handled by the prosecutor, Leading Senior Constable Mick Kuyken and defence counsel Lynne Broad from Victoria Legal Aid.

Prior to the hearing beginning, the students were educated on the role of the police prosecutor, the defence counsel, the court registrar and the magistrate, as well as courtroom etiquette.

Despite it being a mock hearing, the students heard of the very real impact of events which could follow if they were charged for possession and distribution of child pornography, as well as the implications of being named on the Sex Offenders Register.

Some of this included their movements being closely monitored by police locally and internationally, as well as restrictions on types of employment, especially those which involved working with children, among other things.

The mock hearing on Friday was part of an initiative by Gippsland Legal Community Service and Victoria Legal Aid, with the participation of others involved in the justice system, to improve youth understanding in the law with regard to sexting.

“The purpose is to make it real for the students, and what it could mean for a young person’s future,” Gippsland Legal Community Legal Service principal lawyer Kate Windmill said.

“This is the second session we have run; we hope to have other Latrobe Valley high schools involved.”

VLA legal education coordinator Tracey Finlay said they were keen on working with youth as proactive preventative steps.

“Sexting is a very real issue; today’s session helps students understand the implications for themselves and their families,” Ms Finlay said.