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Feedback request: Women’s experiences in dealing with sexual violence via the criminal justice system

The Queensland taskforce charged with reviewing the experiences of women across the criminal justice system is seeking feedback on the experiences of women subjected to sexual violence.

Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce Chair Margaret McMurdo AC said on Friday that a second discussion paper had been released seeking community feedback on a proposal to focus on women and girls’ experience of dealing with sexual violence in the criminal justice system, as well as the experience of women and girls as offenders.

The taskforce is tasked with delving into the barriers around reporting sexual offences and obtaining convictions, such as community attitudes, police responses and the adequacy of current laws, including consent.

Ms McMurdo AC, who served as President of the Court of Appeal for almost 20 years (1998-2017), said the taskforce was concerned about the extent of sexual violence against women and girls.

“The taskforce has a limited time to explore our terms of reference, and the scope of women and girls’ experience of the criminal justice system is considerable,” Ms McMurdo said.

“As most victims of sexual violence are women and girls, we propose that we examine the criminal justice system’s current response to sexual offending, find out what’s working well, and what needs to be improved.

“We want to hear if Queenslanders think this is the right approach.”

Discussion Paper 2 – Women and girls’ experience of the criminal justice system’ addresses the second part of the Government’s terms of reference to examine the experiences of women in the criminal justice system.

“We also want to examine why women come in to contact with the criminal justice system as offenders, their journey through the system, sentencing options and the prison experience,” Ms McMurdo said. “We (also) propose looking at how wider issues such as diversity, disadvantage, trauma, and the culture of the justice system may also impact on women and girls’ experiences.

“The community, however, may want to give priority to other matters.”

Submissions on ‘Discussion Paper 2’ are due by 23 July.

The taskforce plans to release more detailed discussion papers exploring the agreed key themes in detail.

“We’re seeking responses from people with lived experience, service providers, legal professionals and others,” Ms McMurdo said.

She said the taskforce had already received more than 400 submissions on its terms of reference and was still consulting on it first discussion paper examining coercive control and the need for a standalone ‘commit domestic violence’ offence. The submissions deadline on the first discussion paper is 9 July.

Ms McMurdo is continuing discussions with key stakeholders, including Queensland Corrective Services Commissioner Peter Martin, Shadow Minister for the Prevention of Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence Amanda Camm MP, the Bar Association of Queensland, the Queensland Family and Child Commission, the Queensland Government Statistician’s Office, and service providers, including key first responders, police and lawyers in the Mt Isa region.

The taskforce’s final report on women and girls’ experience in the criminal justice system is due to be delivered to the Queensland Government in March 2022.

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