A CHILD advocacy group has praised the Tasmanian Parliament for supporting laws removing mistaken age as a defence for people accused of sexual involvement with children under 13.
The new law passed the House of Assembly with unanimous support yesterday as part of a suite of changes to legislation governing sexual offences against young people.
The changes were recommended by the Tasmanian Law Reform Institute after a 2009 case where a 12-year-old girl was prostituted to up to 100 men by her mother and another man after being advertised in the newspaper as 18 years old.
Under the proposed laws, a person who has sex with a child aged under 13 years cannot claim they were of the mistaken belief the child was older unless a jury finds they took reasonable steps to determine the child's age.
In existing law an honest and reasonable but mistaken belief that the child was over 17 is a defence.
The new laws also include an extraterrestrial clause to allow prosecutors to rely on unlawful sexual contact that occurred outside Tasmania to make up a charge of maintaining a sexual relationship with a child.
The charge requires at least three separate incidents of unlawful sexual conduct, at least one of which will still have to occur in Tasmania.
Attorney-General Brian Wightman said the no-defence age was set at 13 because that was the age at which most teenagers began puberty.
Bravehearts criminologist Carol Ronken said it was a welcome move and 13 was a sensible age to have the cutoff.
``We do have to realise that if there's an adult and they are having sex with a child under the age of 13, then they should surely know,'' Ms Ronken said.
``It does allow for the acknowledgment that kids of 14 and 15 do often look older than they are.''
Dension Liberal MHR Matthew Groom said Tasmania was the last state to create a no-defence age and questioned why it had taken the government three years to introduce the legislation.