Unlawful carnal knowledge

The offence of unlawful carnal knowledge refers to any act of or attempt at sexual intercourse with a person under the age of consent, 16 years.

Unlike other jurisdictions, Queensland does not have ‘Romeo and Juliet’ laws, which allow for mutual and consensual sexual relationships between people under 16. In Queensland, any sex involving a person under 16 is unlawful.


The maximum penalty is life imprisonment if the complainant was under 12 years of age.

Otherwise, the maximum penalty is 14 years of imprisonment.


If the accused person believed, honestly and reasonably, that the complainant was 16 years or over, this belief can be used as a defence against the charge.

This ‘mistake of fact’ defence is outlined on our Sex offences page.

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