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Criminalising Coercive Control in Queensland

In 2021, a Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce was formed, headed up by the Honourable Margaret McMurdo in order to examine coercive control and review the need for there to be a specific offence of “domestic violence”.

The taskforce presented a report with 89 recommendations to seek to reform the domestic violence services and keeping victims and their families safe from further violence.

Of the 89 recommendations, perhaps the most publicised has been the recommendation for new laws to be put in place to criminalise coercive control. In spite of the horrifying numbers of new domestic violence applications brought each day across Queensland, people are becoming more educated than ever about what domestic violence is, and services available to those victims. Domestic Violence is not just physical assault, or threats to harm. It includes financial abuse and control, verbal abuse and coercive control. Coercive control is the act or pattern of acts of threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish or frighten the victim. The behaviour is designed to control the victim by making them wholly reliant on the perpetrator by isolating them from support, exploiting them, depriving them of independence and regulating their everyday behaviour. Fundamentally it is about power and control.

This is a huge step in the Queensland Government’s attitude towards women’s safety and will see the government introduce a suite of new laws into parliament to combat coercive control starting with reforms to strengthen Queensland’s existing legislative responses to coercive control.

To assist the government with its reforms, the Queensland Government will establish an independent commission of inquiry to examine police responses to domestic and family violence to ensure the community has confidence in our police to protect victims and hold the perpetrators accountable. This finding is due to be completed over the next four months with recommendations and a report to be available before 4 October 2022.

It is clear that system-wide reform is necessary before the new offences come into effect. The Queensland Government’s approach to implementation of the recommendations is broadly consistent with sequencing proposed in the Taskforce’s 4-phase plan to prioritise actions.

The Taskforce is in the process of a follow up report considering women’s experiences in the criminal justice system.

If you have any questions, please get in touch with Stephanie.

 

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