Queensland Law Society confirmed its position on proposed changes to identification laws at today’s public hearing on the inquiry into the Justice and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2023.
QLS spoke strongly against amendments to remove restrictions in the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1978 (Qld) which prohibit identification of an adult defendant charged with a prescribed sexual offence prior to finalisation of committal proceedings.
The changes were among a raft proposed by the omnibus Bill, which was introduced to Parliament on May 25 by Attorney-General and Minister for Justice and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence, Yvette D’Ath.
The Bill was referred to the Legal Affairs and Safety Committee, who today heard from QLS, represented by Vice-President Rebecca Fogerty, Criminal Law Committee Chair Dominic Brunello, and General Manager Matt Dunn.
When introducing the Bill in Parliament, Ms D’Ath said currently only defendants charged with rape and attempted rape, assault with intent to rape and sexual assault had their identity protected before committal.
“Even alleged murderers and others accused of serious crimes can be identified before committal,” she said.
“The previous protections for accused rapists were based in part on the false assumption that women maliciously make up complaints to damage reputations. These rape myths have absolutely no place in our society and our laws need to reflect this.”
The Bill proposes the replacement of Section 7 of the Act, which prohibits identification of a defendant, with a provision which allows a defendant to apply for a non-publication order.
At the public hearing, Ms Fogerty said QLS was concerned by the requirement for only three days’ notice to be given by an applicant seeking a non-publication order.
“The proposed changes will place a greater burden on the media and reporting agencies to report responsibly and accurately in order not to cause adverse consequences on judicial processes and conduct of criminal trials,” she said.
“This creates a number of hurdles for the defendant but potentially also for the complainant who may be affected by the publication of identifying information of this kind.”
Ms Fogerty reiterated the society’s position that the state’s current laws struck an appropriate balance between an accused’s right to a fair trial and principles of open justice.
The committee is due to table its report on 28 July.
Read the QLS submission here.