UNDERAGE girls could be charged as an accessory to their own rape because of a legal loophole.
Police said prosecuting men for statutory rape was difficult because they could be compelled to charge the vulnerable child victim as an accessory to the crime.
The offence of statutory rape is known in Australia as the sexual assault of a child under 16.
The revelation to Parliament came after Opposition community services spokeswoman Pru Goward questioned why a 25-year-old man had not been charged over an alleged relationship with a pregnant 14-year-old girl.
Ms Goward had no further details of that case but she yesterday said the refusal by police to lay charges in those circumstances had set progress in rape cases back years.
"It is the footballer's defence," she said.
"In high profile cases that have involved young girls, they always say the girl asked for it.
"The prospect that a young woman who is underage could be charged as an accessory after the fact because she initiated the man to have sex with her or she hid her age, none of these statutory rape cases would ever succeed."
NSW Police Minister Michael Daley was provided general advice from police which stated there were a number of difficulties in bringing statutory rape charges against an adult male.
"One of which is that the underage female in such a case may be liable as an accessory to the offence and may not co-operate with the investigation," the advice read.
Police said other factors such as the "stress and trauma of a trial on the wellbeing of the underage female would also need to be weighed up against the psychological harm that may have arisen from the relationship."
Mr Daley last night said he was unaware of any cases where child victims had been charged with accessories and he said it would be "against police prosecutorial policy."
"In the majority of these cases I would expect that they would lay charges against the adult offender," Mr Daley said.
"Police have not requested further laws in this area, but if they did the Government would be happy to consider them."
DOCS has also admitted they are sometimes powerless to prevent men living with children in intimate relationships. Cases of girls younger than 16, the legal age of consent, were complex.