The case against Ghislaine Maxwell
Ghislaine Maxwell, known for her involvement in the case of Jeffrey Epstein, is facing numerous charges relating to grooming and conspiring with child sexual offender Jeffrey Epstein to sexually abuse minors.
Maxwell has been accused of being central to Epstein’s scheme, in gaining the trust of young women and having conversations with the girls that would ‘normalise’ the abuse.
The six-count indictment alleges that Ghislaine Maxwell assisted Epstein to groom girls as young as 14 years old and was, as prosecutors report, present during the sexual abuse of three underage girls. For her involvement, she faces up to 35 years in prison.
The indictment lists three victims who prosecutors say were recruited by Ghislaine Maxwell from 1994 to 1997, with US Federal laws allowing the government to prosecute sexual offences committed against minors at any point in the victim’s lifetime.
Also, Maxwell now faces multiple counts of perjury for allegedly lying in her deposition about Epstein’s sexual activities.
In NSW, the involvement of Maxwell may be covered by two offences:
- Grooming a child for unlawful sexual activity; or
- Grooming an adult to access a child under their authority.
The offence of grooming a child for unlawful sexual activity
Grooming a child for unlawful sexual activity is an offence under section 66EB(3) of the Crimes Act, carrying a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, or 12 years if the child was under 14 years of age.
Under this section, the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that:
- The accused was at least 18 years of age;
- The accused groomed a child for unlawful sexual activity; and
- The accused did so intentionally.
‘Groomed’ under this section means to expose a child to indecent material, or provide a child with an intoxicating substance, or with any financial or material benefit to make it easier to procure the child for unlawful sexual activity.
A ‘child’ is defined as a person under the age of 16 years.
‘Unlawful sexual activity’ covers a broad range of conduct, including:
- Sexual act,
- Sexual touching,
- Sexual intercourse,
- Producing child abuse material,
- Forced self-manipulation, and
- Child prostitution.
Under this section, the prosecution does not need to prove that the complaint was not consenting, as the consent of the complainant is no defence to a charge under this section.
A defence to the charge is that you reasonably believed the other person was not a child.
A further offence flowing from this is where a person meets a child following grooming, per subsection (2). Under this subsection, it is an offence for an adult person to intentionally meet a child, or travels to meet a child, whom the adult person has groomed for sexual purposes, and does so to procure the child for unlawful sexual activity with that adult person or any other person.
Grooming an adult to access a child under their authority
In response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the New South Wales Government adopted a formal recommendation contained in the final report, making it an offence to ‘groom a parent or carer to gain access to a child.’
Per section 66EC of the Crimes Act, to establish the offence, the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that:
- The accused was an adult;
- The accused provided another adult with a financial or material benefit, and
- The accused did so with the intent to make it easier to procure a child under that adult’s authority for unlawful sexual activity.
Again, a ‘child’ is a person under the age of 16 years and ‘Unlawful sexual activity’ covers the broad range of conduct outlined above.
Those with authority over a child include:
- The child’s parents or guardians, and
- Any other adult/s with responsibility for the child at the relevant time.
Proceedings for this offence can only be commenced by, or with the approval of, the Director of Public Prosecutions.
This offence carries a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison, or 6 years if the child was under 14 years of age.