Teacher abuse charges tossed as law didn't cover women

An ex-teacher has had her historical sex abuse charges quashed because the relevant 1970s laws did not apply to women abusing boys.

Helga Lam, a former teacher at a Sydney boys' school, had been charged with 15 counts of indecent assault on four school boys for alleged offences dating back to 1978.

But the top criminal appeal court in NSW tossed the charges on Monday, with three judges agreeing to quash the indictment.

In his lead judgment, Justice Anthony Meagher said the decision was made solely on the basis that the law in force at the time - repealed and replaced in 1984 - did not apply to "conduct committed by a female upon a male". 

The relevant law was "directed to the crime of sodomy upon a male and other male homosexual conduct", he said.

"The only sexual conduct capable of constituting an assault upon a male which of its nature alone was necessarily regarded as 'indecent' at the time ... was male homosexual conduct," Justice Meagher said.

Claims against Lam included penile-vaginal intercourse with the complainants, as well as masturbating them, performing fellatio on them and telling them to perform sex acts on her.

Three complainants were willing participants, while the fourth said "he was fearful and upset when the applicant performed sexual acts upon him", Justice Meagher noted.

At the time of the alleged offending, the students were aged between 13 and 16.

Lam's case is listed to return to the NSW District Court in mid-March.

1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)

National Sexual Abuse and Redress Support Service 1800 211 028

What is AAPNews?

For the first time, Australian Associated Press is delivering news straight to the consumer.

No ads. No spin. News straight-up.

Not only do you get to enjoy high-quality news delivered straight to your desktop or device, you do so in the knowledge you are supporting media diversity in Australia.

AAP Is Australia’s only independent newswire service, free from political and commercial influence, producing fact-based public interest journalism across a range of topics including politics, courts, sport, finance and entertainment.

What is AAPNews?
The Morning Wire

Wake up to AAPNews’ morning news bulletin delivered straight to your inbox or mobile device, bringing you up to speed with all that has happened overnight at home and abroad, as well as setting you up what the day has in store.

AAPNews Morning Wire
AAPNews Breaking News
Breaking News

Be the first to know when major breaking news happens.

Notifications will be sent to your device whenever a big story breaks, ensuring you are never in the dark when the talking points happen.

Focused Content

Enjoy the best of AAP’s specialised Topics in Focus. AAP has reporters dedicated to bringing you hard news and feature content across a range of specialised topics including Environment, Agriculture, Future Economies, Arts and Refugee Issues.

AAPNews Focussed Content
Subscription Plans

Choose the plan that best fits your needs. AAPNews offers two basic subscriptions, all billed monthly.

Once you sign up, you will have seven days to test out the service before being billed.

AAPNews Full Access Plan
Full Access
  • Enjoy all that AAPNews has to offer
  • Access to breaking news notifications and bulletins
  • Includes access to all AAPNews’ specialised topics
Join Now
AAPNews Student Access Plan
Student Access
  • Gain access via a verified student email account
  • Enjoy all the benefits of the ‘Full Access’ plan at a reduced rate
  • Subscription renews each month
Join Now
AAPNews Annual Access Plan
Annual Access
  • All the benefits of the 'Full Access' subscription at a discounted rate
  • Subscription automatically renews after 12 months
Join Now

AAPNews also offers enterprise deals for businesses so you can provide an AAPNews account for your team, organisation or customers. Click here to contact AAP to sign-up your business today.

Download the app
Download AAPNews on the App StoreDownload AAPNews on the Google Play Store