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Is Coercive Control Going To Become A Criminal Offence In Queensland?

Criminalising coercive control has been on the state’s agenda since the murder of Hannah Clarke and her three children in 2020 The Queensland government says it will fully implement all 89 recommendations of a landmark women’s safety task force, including introducing new laws to criminalise coercive control and holding a four-month inquiry into “widespread cultural […]

Is Coercive Control Going To Become A Criminal Offence In Queensland?

Is Coercive Control Going To Become A Criminal Offence In Queensland?

By aylwardgame - Dec 6, 2021 Domestic Violence

Criminalising coercive control has been on the state’s agenda since the murder of Hannah Clarke and her three children in 2020

The Queensland government says it will fully implement all 89 recommendations of a landmark women’s safety task force, including introducing new laws to criminalise coercive control and holding a four-month inquiry into “widespread cultural issues” within the state’s police service.

The government says it will spend $363m on a package of reforms recommended by the task force, led by the former court of appeal president Margaret McMurdo.

What is Coercive control?

Coercive control is a form of domestic violence in which a perpetrator uses behaviours that dominate and control their victim. Some common examples of coercive control are isolating a person from their family and friends, monitoring a person’s time, movements, and communication, repeatedly putting someone down and other acts that intimidate or restrict a person. 

In Queensland, coercive control is not currently captured in the Criminal Code and therefore the victims of this behaviour are not protected. There has been increasing pressure on the Queensland Government to criminalise this behaviour which has resulted in the Queensland Government now taking steps to do so. This does however raise complex questions of how the laws should be defined and particularly how to enforce any legislation that is contemplated to criminalise coercive control if it is made an offence.

The Taskforce has suggested that it could include the following behaviours:

  • Disqualifying put-downs;
  • ‘Gaslighting’;
  • “Micro-managing” the life of a partner, which includes what they wear and when they are allowed to eat, and when they can go to bed or leave home;
  • The gradual isolation of friends and family;
  • Affronts and intimidation;
  • Controlling or limiting access to cash;
  • Monitoring movement – which includes electronic devices
  • Utilizing technologies and the use of social networks to regulate and alter.

Recommendations have been made to the Government that Queensland take a staged approach to criminalising coercive control. This includes ensuring that first responders are adequately trained to identify the behaviour itself and respond appropriately to the reports of the behaviour. The Attorney General has stated that they will carefully consider the recommendations. It is expected that the Government will provide a response to these recommendations early next year. 

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Although these proposed changes relate to criminal matters, coercive controls can impact family members during a relationship and after a relationship has ended. Therefore the introduction of legislation whereby coercive control is criminalised will have a significant impact on families and their family law matters.

Is Coercive Control Become A Criminal Offence In Queensland?

Many other states and territories in Australia (including Queensland) are currently considering making changes to their laws in order to prohibit this kind of behavior. The demand to legislate this behavior across the nation is a result of prominent instances of domestic violence as well as the coercive control behaviors which were in place prior to when an incident occurred.

The Queensland government has pledged to make coercive control.

The Taskforce has already released its opinion on the best way to legislate for coercive controls as an aspect of violence against family and domestic partners in the month of October 2021. “Hear Her Voice’ report.

This report follows on from the ‘Not Now, Not Ever report, headed by the Honourable Dame Quentin Bryce AD CVOs, which led to sweeping changes to Queensland’s domestic and family violence laws.

The report from October 2021 contains the 89 recommendations to amend the Queensland law, which include:

  • making coercive control a separate crime (with the recommended maximum penalty that is the equivalent of 14 years);
  • making a defense of the fact that the behavior was reasonable in relation to the entire relationship with the burden of proof being on the defendant
  • The Department of Justice develop a plan to increase the safety of the victims of court
  • updating court infrastructure to include secure waiting rooms, witness rooms, and secure ways to exit and enter and rolling out specialist family and domestic violence courts;
  • Modernizing and amending the current laws on stalking to allow for using technology and
  • designing a community education strategy that clearly explains coercive controls for state-based schools as well as non-state schools.

Legislation to define the offence of coercive controls is likely to be presented to Queensland Parliament before the end of 2023. The next report of the Taskforce is expected to be handed to the Attorney General in June 2022.

If you require any assistance in your family law property or parenting matters, or if you need assistance in relation to an application for a domestic violence order, please contact our family law team on 1800 217 217