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Queensland domestic violence taskforce proposes 13 changes to legislation including electronic monitoring

ABC News logo ABC News 26/05/2021 By Lia Walsh
a close up of Julia Fordham wearing a hat: Queensland Women's Safety and Justice Taskforce head Margaret McMurdo released the discussion paper, making 13 options for domestic violence reform. (ABC News: Stephen Cavenagh) © Provided by ABC NEWS Queensland Women's Safety and Justice Taskforce head Margaret McMurdo released the discussion paper, making 13 options for domestic violence reform. (ABC News: Stephen Cavenagh)

An independent taskforce set up by the Queensland Government has released 13 proposals to address domestic violence, following a series of murders and attacks on women and children over the past year.

The Queensland Women's Safety and Justice Taskforce today released its first discussion paper and is seeking community feedback.

From amending the definition of domestic violence to implementing an electronic monitoring scheme for serious domestic violence offenders, the paper puts forward 13 reforms, based on 270 submissions it received.

It outlines the risks and benefits of introducing new legislation.

Former Court of Appeal president Margaret McMurdo, who heads the taskforce, hoped the proposed reforms would "stimulate discussion and gain feedback from the community".

"We want to hear from victims and survivors of domestic violence," she said.

"Particularly those who have suffered coercive control and acknowledge the courage it takes to share these difficult experiences."

She said a common theme coming through from victims was not being believed when they first made a complaint.

“I think criminalising domestic violence in a way that recognises coercive control is a great educative tool.

“On the other hand, we don't want unintended consequences," she said.

The taskforce has called for submissions by the start of July.

The paper is the taskforce's first step towards tabling a report in Parliament by October and delivering recommendations to the government by March next year.

'Traumatising for victims'

Betty Taylor, the spokeswoman for Red Rose Foundation,  which works to end domestic and family violence, said adding offences should not be the focus as current legislation was not "getting enough offences … up to the courts".

"Charges of strangulation – to get … all the way up to a District Court takes about two years," Ms Taylor said.

She said it was "traumatising" for victims.

"We have very few charges going forward on stalking.

"We still have difficulties with our sexual assault charging."

Ms Taylor said a more "aggressive approach" needed to be used against perpetrators before they reoffended.

"Before they get into the courts and [are] charged seriously … they're on to their third, fourth, fifth offence," she said.

'Nucleus of domestic violence'

Ms Taylor said coercive control was the "nucleus of domestic violence" but she was concerned how reforms would impact victims.

"I really get concerned about … the amount of proof we're going to be [asking of] victims," she said.

Ms Taylor said reforms needed a "safety" focus.

"I don't think we're going to criminalise our way out of this," she said.

"It's how we build in as much safety as possible."

Ms Taylor welcomed the consideration of tracking devices as long as they were "tracked in real time … [and] there was a really clear, safe way to let the victims know if the devices are removed".

Ms Taylor, who sits on the Queensland Domestic and Family Violence Review Board, said: "We know most of those deaths [are] two things – predictable and preventable."

Taskforce recommendations:

  • Utilise the existing legislation in Queensland more effectively
  • Create a mitigating factor in the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992 (Qld) that would require a sentencing court to have regard to whether an offence's criminal behaviour could in be attributed to the offender being a victim of coercive control
  • Amend the definition of domestic violence under the Domestic and Family Violence Act 2012
  • Create a new offence of 'cruelty' in the Criminal Code
  • Amend and rename the existing offence of unlawful stalking in the Criminal Code
  • Create a new standalone 'coercive control' offence
  • Create a new offence of 'commit domestic violence' in the Domestic and Family Violence Act 2012
  • Create a 'floating' circumstance of aggravation in the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992 for domestic and family violence
  • Create a specific defence of coercive control in the Criminal Code
  • Amend the Evidence Act 1977 (Qld) to introduce jury directions and facilitate admissibility of evidence of coercive control in similar terms to the amendments contained in the Family Violence Legislation Reform Act 2020 (WA)
  • Create a legislative vehicle to establish a register of serious domestic violence offenders
  • Amend the Dangerous Prisoners (Sexual Offenders) Act 2003 or creating a post-conviction civil supervision and monitoring scheme in the penalties and sentences Act 1992 for serious domestic offenders
  • Amend the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992 to create 'Serial family violence offender declarations' upon conviction based on the Western Australian model

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