The Honourable Margaret McMurdo AC to head taskforce in tackling coercive control

In an Australian-first the State Government has announced Queensland’s first female Court of Appeal President and former judge the Honourable Margaret McMurdo AC will now lead a critical, independent taskforce to consult and advise on how best to legislate against coercive control as a form of domestic and family violence.

Queensland Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman today made this announcement, a year on from the murder of Brisbane mother Hannah Clarke and her children in a domestic violence case that shocked the nation.

“As we reflect one year on from the tragic deaths of Hannah Clarke, and her three children, we know that legislating against coercive control will give a system towards intervening earlier to better protect victims, and today we’re announcing the next step in this journey,” Ms Fentiman said.

With the Honourable Margaret McMurdo AC leading the taskforce, Ms Fentiman said she was confident the Government would deliver strong, robust and carefully considered new laws.

“We will consult with a wide range of survivors, domestic and sexual violence service providers, legal and domestic violence experts and the community,” Ms Fentiman said.

“This includes Hannah Clarke’s parents, Lloyd and Sue, in the development of a new approach to coercive control. It needs to be considered from all perspectives to ensure we get it [these laws] right.”

Queensland Law Society has previously highlighted the delicacy and complexities surrounding the push to legislate coercive control and President Elizabeth Shearer said the society was looking forward to the release of the terms of reference and engaging in the taskforce process.

“Queensland Law Society welcomes the announcement of the Honourable Margaret McMurdo AC as chair of an independent taskforce to consult on how best to deal with coercive control in our community,” Ms Shearer said. “QLS always supports the development of evidence based policy and legislation.

“We acknowledge the devastating impact violence against women has on individuals and communities in Australia. In our view, governments have a responsibility to continue to examine and implement measures aimed at addressing family, domestic and sexual violence and its consequences.”

Ms Shearer also acknowledged the importance of handling the complexities surrounding this issue within the community as well as the legal profession.

“Any amendment to law needs to be carefully defined to avoid unintended consequences,” she said. “Amendments to legislation alone are also unlikely to be effective if they are not accompanied by comprehensive and well-resourced non-legislative measures.

“In the case of coercive control, consideration needs to be given to the development and implementation of measures aimed at driving change in the structures, norms and practices that lead to gender inequality and violence against women as well as specialist training for police and other first responders.”

The taskforce is to report back to the Government with its recommendations in October, with Ms Fentiman expecting proposed legislation in parliament early next year.

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