The President of Queensland’s independently run parole board will have the sole responsibility of deciding which of the state’s convicted child killers should receive release bans of up to 10 years under proposed laws introduced in Parliament today.
The Queensland Government today introduced what it has labelled the “toughest parole laws in the nation” for prisoners serving life sentences for the ‘heinous crimes’.
The proposed legislation, included in the Police Powers and Responsibilities and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2021, introduced late on Wednesday, comes in response to the latest application by infamous convicted child killer Barrie Watts for release to Parole Board Queensland (PBQ).
Watts, now 67, has spent the past 34 years in prison for the abduction, rape and murder of 12-year-old Sunshine Coast girl Sian Kingi on 27 November 1987.
PBQ has yet to release its decision on Watts’ application, however, QLS Proctor has learnt that a decision is imminent and that the reasons are to be made publicly available.
Corrective Services Minister Mark Ryan said the tough laws were designed to target people convicted of killing children and those who commit multiple murders.
Under the proposed legislation, the President of PBQ – which is currently headed by highly respected veteran criminal lawyer Michael Byrne QC – would have the authority to declare that certain prisoners are prohibited from obtaining parole for a period of up to 10-years.
The proposed changes would also place no limit on the number of times the PBQ president could make such a declaration, meaning that an individual prisoner could face multiple 10-year bans on obtaining parole.
“These reforms are aimed at protecting the victims’ families from the trauma of repeated and unnecessary parole applications,” Mr Ryan said. “This is about targeting those who commit the worst crimes with laws that protect the victims’ families from unnecessary trauma.
“Those life-sentenced prisoners who have killed a child or committed multiple murders have no right to expect they will get parole. In fact, they may never get parole.
“And under the legislation we are proposing they may never even get to apply for parole.”
The legislation also includes amendments to the ‘no body, no parole’ framework to consider a prisoner’s co-operation at an earlier time, and restrict prisoners who have not co-operated from reapplying for parole until they choose to provide new information.
These amendments will also be supported by updated ministerial guidelines for the Parole Board Queensland to ensure that the “timeliness” of a prisoner’s cooperation is a significant consideration. These measures intend to incentivise earlier prisoner cooperation to help provide closure to a victim’s family and friends sooner.
It means that when determining a ‘no body, no parole’ matter, Parole Board Queensland must place greater emphasis on whether the prisoner gave information to authorities in relation to the victim’s location in a timely manner.
Queensland Homicide Victims Support Group Chief Executive Officer Brett Thompson said he was pleased with the proposed amendments.
“I’m especially keen to see a change to the framework around the timeliness of cooperation factor in Parole Board Queensland’s consideration of no body, no parole applications,” he said. “I know this is important to our members.”
Read the Explanatory Notes.