Queensland Law Society (QLS) has urged the State Government’s Legal Affairs and Safety Committee to extend the consultation period for the Criminal Law (Coercive Control and Affirmative Consent) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2023.
QLS Vice President Rebecca Fogerty, Criminal Law Committee Chair Dominic Brunello and Domestic and Family Violence Committee member Emily O’Hagan attended the public hearing at Parliament House today.
The Bill was introduced into the Queensland Parliament in October and then referred to the Legal Affairs and Safety Committee for detailed consideration.
In March 2021, the Queensland Government established the independent Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce to examine coercive control and review the need for a specific offence of commit domestic violence, and the experience of women across the criminal justice system.
In its first report, the taskforce recommended a standalone coercive control offence. The taskforce’s second report recommended that Queensland adopt an affirmative model of consent.
Rebecca said the Bill proposed significant changes to the criminal law and highlighted key QLS concerns that in its current state it could lead to unprecedented challenges, protracted trials, and ultimately, appeals.
She said the Bill “doesn’t get the balance right” in respect of establishing an intent to coerce or control, the lack of requirement to particularise the course of conduct and the lack of requirement for jury unanimity in respect of the events making up the course of conduct.
“QLS considers that the drafting of the coercive control offence requires further consultation over a reasonable period of time so that stakeholders can properly consider and ventilate their concerns,” Rebecca said.
“We note that the Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce recommended a minimum three-month consultation period.
“The new coercive control offence provision needs to be redrafted with proper regard to conventions of drafting, the need for certainty and core human rights principles.
“Specifically, it needs to be re-written to require specific intent at the time of each act alleged to constitute the course of conduct.
“Essentially, the culmination of the proposed amendments, including to the Evidence Act, will create unprecedented evidentiary challenges which will result in protracted trials and the amplified interrogation of the facts and matters that underpin a charge of coercive control being brought.”
Read the QLS submission here.