Criminal offences


Street sex work

It is an offence to buy or sell, or attempt to buy or sell, sexual services in a public place. The SW Act uses the terms “solicit”, “accost” and “loiter” in relation to street sex work offences; they mean:

solicit: to offer your sexual services or someone else’s sexual services;

accost: to approach and speak to someone;

loiter: to stand, wait or walk slowly with no obvious purpose.

You cannot frequent a public place to solicit, or attempt to solicit, any person to offer their sexual services or the sexual services of another person.

If you sell or attempt to sell sexual services in a public place, the penalty for a first offence is up to five pu or imprisonment for up to one month. For more information, see section 13(2) of the SW Act.

If you purchased or attempted to purchase sexual services, the penalty for a first offence is up to 10 pu or one month imprisonment. For more information, see section 12(2) of the SW Act.

Each offence has increased penalties for second and subsequent offences. The penalty for a first offence as a seller is up to 10 pu or imprisonment for up to one month. For more information, see section 13(2) of the SW Act.

There are harsher penalties if these offences take place near a place of worship, hospital, school, kindergarten or a public place frequented by children and in which children are present.

Unlicensed brothels

It is an offence to enter, be in, or leave an unlicensed brothel without a reasonable excuse. The penalty for a first offence is up to 10 pu or imprisonment for one month. There are harsher penalties for second and subsequent offences. See section 15 of the SW Act for more information.

Living on the earnings of unlicensed sex work

It is an offence to live on the earnings of sex work unless that work is licenced, either as an exempt sex work service provider or sex work service provider, who is registered with the BLA. The maximum penalty for this offence is five years imprisonment.

Offensive behaviour towards sex workers

A person must not be in or near a public place with the intention of:

intimidating, insulting or harassing a sex worker;

behaving in an indecent, offensive or insulting manner towards a sex worker; or

using threatening, abusive or insulting words towards a sex worker.

The penalty for this offence is up to 30 pu or imprisonment for up to three months.

Sex work and children

A person must not cause or induce a child to take part in an act of sex work as a worker or client or in any other capacity. This is a serious offence punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment.

A person must not allow a child to enter or remain on a premise for the purpose of taking part in sex work, as a worker or client or in any other capacity. This is a serious offence punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment.

A person cannot receive a payment knowing it was derived from the sexual services provided by a child. This is a serious offence punishable by up to 15 years imprisonment.

A person must not enter into, or offer to enter into, an agreement where a child is to provide sexual services in return for payment or in exchange for drugs of dependence. This is a serious offence punishable by up to 15 years imprisonment.

An accused may have a possible defence, or a mitigating factor in sentencing, if they can show that they took all reasonable steps to find out whether the person was a child and believed on reasonable grounds that the person was over 18 years old.

Forced sex work

A person must not induce an adult to engage, or continue to engage, in sex work or to provide or continue to provide him or her with a payment or payments derived from sex work by:

assaulting or threatening to assault the person or any other person; or

intimidating the person or any other person; or

supplying or offering to supply a drug of dependence to the person or any other person; or

making a false representation or using any false pretence or other fraudulent means.

Forcing someone to engage in sex work and forcing someone to hand over the proceeds of sex work are two serious offences punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment each.

A sign relating to sexual slavery must be displayed at every brothel. Schedule 1 of the SW Regulations dictates the specific wording of this sign. Under the SW Act, not displaying this sign is an offence that attracts a penalty of up to 10 pu.