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Coercive control legislation introduced

Landmark legislation was introduced to the Queensland Parliament today for a new, stand-alone offence of coercive control.

The Criminal Law (Coercive Control and Affirmative Consent) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2023 will implement the State Government’s response to a second tranche of reforms recommended by the Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce, including amending the Criminal Code to establish the offence of coercive control.

The offence will carry a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment and will criminalise conduct of an adult where:

  • the person is in a domestic relationship with another person;
  • the person engages in a course of conduct against the other person that consists of domestic violence occurring on more than one occasion;
  • the person intends the course of conduct to coerce or control the other person; and
  • the course of conduct would, in all the circumstances, be reasonably likely to cause the other person harm (with ‘harm’ defined in the Bill to mean any detrimental effect on the person’s physical, emotional, financial, psychological or mental wellbeing, whether temporary or permanent).

The Bill was developed after consultation with stakeholders, including the domestic and family violence sector and the legal profession.

The reforms build on the first tranche of legislative amendments to strengthen Queensland’s response to coercive control which took effect in August.

Community readiness for the changes to the law will be supported through community education campaigns.

The Bill will also establish a court-based perpetrator diversion scheme, introduce a new offence of engaging in domestic and family violence to aid a respondent, and insert new aggravating factors for domestic violence offences.

Attorney-General and Minister for Justice and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence, Yvette D’Ath said: “Coercive control is serious, it has serious impacts on the victim and their families and a new, stand-alone offence reflects that non-physical violence is just as dangerous as physical violence.

““I would particularly like to acknowledge the advocacy of Sue and Lloyd Clarke and the Small Steps 4 Hannah Foundation in their tireless work to raise awareness and educate the community on coercive control.”

Women’s Legal Service QLD CEO Nadia Bromley said: “WLSQ is pleased to see the implementation of such important laws, including the creation of a criminal offence of coercive control.

“This law well reflects the seriousness of the harm done to women and our community generally. Every Queenslander has the right to safety and agency in their own lives. 

“This law is a clear statement that coercion and control will not be tolerated in our state. 

“WLSQ has been involved in extensive consultation in relation to this Bill and is encouraged by the Government’s commitment to hearing and acting on the voices of women who have experienced violence.

“We look forward to working with the sector and the broader community to ensure that the law is well understood, and is effective in protecting Queensland women from harm.”

If passed the Criminal Law (Coercive Control and Affirmative Consent) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2023 will introduce an affirmative model of consent which requires free and voluntary agreement to participate in a sexual activity.

The amendments to consent also expressly recognise non-consensual condom removal or tampering with a condom, known colloquially as “stealthing”, as rape. The Bill also expands the non-exhaustive list of circumstances where there is no consent.

The new laws related to affirmative consent and ‘stealthing’, address recommendations from the Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce, Hear Her Voice Report two.

The Bill also includes other amendments which aim to address sexual violence, including introducing jury directions for sexual offence proceedings and imposing a duty on the court to disallow improper questions.

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