This article is for general information only and should not be relied on for specific legal advice. The author will not be held responsible for any action that a person takes as a result of interpretation of the contents of this article. It is important to seek specific advice from a qualified and experienced lawyer for any legal problem.   

The term carnal means “of the flesh.” Carnal knowledge refers to the act or attempted act of sexual intercourse with persons under 16 years of age (under the age of consent). It is a charge that can be preferred by law enforcement in circumstances where consent may have been provided, but the person consenting was not lawfully able to consent, for example, due to their young age. In Queensland, a person needs to be 16 years old in order to give lawful consent to engage in sexual intercourse. 

The Laws Around Carnal Knowledge

Section 215 of the Criminal Code (Qld) 1899 states; 

(1) Any person who has or attempts to have unlawful carnal knowledge with or of a child under the age of 16 years is guilty of an indictable offence. 

Elements of the Offence

It is the duty of the prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Defendant has committed the offence. Every charge has a number of elements that the Prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt. For the charge of Carnal Knowledge the Prosecution must prove; 

  1. Defendant – The Prosecutor has to prove the identification of the offender; 
  2. Had or Attempted to have Carnal Knowledge;  
  3. With a Child Under the Age of 16 years; 

Maximum Penalty for Carnal Knowledge

The maximum penalty is life imprisonment depending on the age of the child.   


In Queensland, if a person is convicted of Carnal Knowledge, then the court could impose one of the following penalties: 

  • Jail (suspended, parole or actual time); 
  • Intensive Corrections Order; 
  • Probation; 
  • Community Service Order; 
  • Fines. 

The actual penalty will depend on the circumstances of the matter including the seriousness of the offence and the individual circumstances and background of the Defendant.

Possible Defences for Carnal Knowledge

There are a number of defences available to charges at law. Not every defence is available to every charge. You will need to seek specific legal advice to see if you have a defence available to you for this charge. Some of the common defences available in criminal charges are:

  • Necessity; 
  • Mistake of Fact; 
  • Public Safety; 
  • Self Defence or defence of another person; 
  • Intoxication; 
  • Provocation; 
  • Accident; 
  • Duress; 
  • Compulsion; 
  • Insanity; 
  • Automatism  

Which Court will your matter be heard in?

The charge of Carnal Knowledge will initially be heard in the Magistrates Court in Queensland.  The prosecution will need to obtain a full brief of evidence. The charge is too serious and cannot be heard and determined by a Magistrate. A committal hearing will have to be conducted and then the matter must proceed to the District Court. If you enter a plea of guilty then the charge will be determined by a Judge. If you enter a plea of Not Guilty then the trial will be before a Judge and Jury.  If you are found guilty then you will be sentenced by the Judge.   

What should I do if the police want to speak to me about a Carnal Knowledge allegation or if I am charged with Carnal Knowledge? 

You have the right to remain silent. You DO have to provide police with your name, date of birth and contact details. You should NOT answer any questions, make any statement or participate in any interview with the police. You should be polite to the officer but insist that you want to talk to your lawyer. You have the right to telephone a friend, relative or lawyer.  

Call an Expert 

If you are charged with a criminal offence, it is very important that you seek immediate legal advice. Our team at Brooke Winter Solicitors can give you over-the-phone advice. We have a solid reputation as expert Criminal Lawyers and can represent you in court. Call us on 1300 066 669 if you have any questions. We can assist you no matter where you are located and can appear in every court.