An Australian judge has been suspended from his duties after saying incest may no longer be taboo just as homosexuality is now accepted.
New South Wales district court judge Garry Neilson likened incest to homosexuality while presiding over the trial of a man charged with raping his younger sister.
Judge Neilson told the court that just as gay sex was socially unacceptable and criminal in the 1950s and 1960s but is now widely accepted, the same could happen for incestuous relationships.
"A jury might find nothing untoward in the advance of a brother towards his sister once she had sexually matured, had sexual relationships with other men and was now 'available', not having (a) sexual partner," he said.
The only reason incest was still a crime, he added, was because of the genetic abnormalities in children born from consanguineous relationships but that now no longer mattered due to the ease of contraception and abortion options available.
He made the comments in April while sitting in the case of a 58-year-old man charged with repeatedly raping his younger sister in the family's western Sydney home in 1981.
The man admitted to sexually assaulting his sister when she was 10 or 11-years-old in 1973 or 1974 but pleaded not guilty to charges relating to sex they had in 1981, when she was 18 and he was 26.
"By that stage they are both mature adults," Neilson said.
"The complainant has been sexually awoken, shall we say, by having two relationships with men and she had become 'free' when the second relationship broke down. The only thing that might change that is the fact that they were a brother and sister but we've come a long way from the 1950s – when the position of the English Common Law was that sex outside marriage was not lawful."
The state's Attorney General has since intervened in the case, following concerns raised by the local community, and has referred Judge Neilson to the Judicial Commission, which will prepare a report for the NSW Parliament. It ultimately has the power to remove a judge.
Chief Judge of the District Court, Reg Blanch, said in a statement: "I have now been advised by the attorney general that he has referred the matter to the Judicial Commission and Judge Neilson will not sit in crime until this matter is determined."
He added: "I was extremely concerned to read the comments of His Honour Judge Garry Neilson in regard to his views on incest.
"In my view the community would be rightly appalled at his reported comments. Incest is completely reprehensible, unacceptable, disgusting and criminal."
NSW Bar Association junior vice president Arthur Moses, said Judge Neilson's comments were "plainly inappropriate" and "not reflective of the views of our judiciary".