Landmark legislation introduced to criminalise Coercive Control

Published Wednesday, 11 October, 2023 at 11:32 AM

Attorney-General and Minister for Justice and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence
The Honourable Yvette D'Ath

  • Palaszczuk Government introduces legislation to criminalise coercive control
  • The Bill strengthens the Government’s response to domestic, family and sexual violence.

The Palaszczuk Government has introduced landmark legislation to Parliament 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 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 following extensive 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 broad community education campaigns and tailored communication responses for diverse cohorts.

These reforms are also being supported by the development of a domestic and family violence training and change management framework which will inform training across relevant agencies.

Other related initiatives include increased resourcing to help perpetrator intervention services meet increased demand and better support victim-survivors and the development of new programs to hold perpetrators to account.

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.

Quotes attributable to the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence, Yvette D’Ath:

“The Palaszczuk Government is committed to ending all forms of domestic and family violence.

“Let’s be clear – coercive control is domestic and family violence.  It is abuse perpetrated on a victim designed to harm, punish or frighten their victim.

“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 like to acknowledge the extensive and transformational work undertaken by the Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce, stakeholders and advocates for their continued engagement with these reforms, and of course, victim-survivors of domestic violence.

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

“We will never forget Hannah, Aaliyah, Laianah and Trey.  Increasing community awareness and legislating against coercive control will be Hannah’s and her children’s legacy.

“The Palaszczuk Government will continue to raise awareness about coercive control to help protect victims from this insidious form of abuse.”

Quotes attributable to Lloyd Clarke, co-founder, Small Steps 4 Hannah Foundation:

“Coercive control is an insidious form of domestic abuse. It’s quite different to physical violence, and it demands a different response from law enforcement and the judiciary.

“The red flags of coercive control can be hard to detect, but once they become clear it’s so important that there are laws in place that allow police to take strong action and allow magistrates and judges to support that action.

“We are proud to have played a part in advocating for stand-alone coercive control laws in Queensland, and we are grateful that the Government has heard our calls and responded.

“Now we need to step up education and awareness campaigns, so everyone from friends and loved ones to first responders and judges can recognise the signs of coercive control and take action.

Quotes attributable to Sue Clarke, co-founder, Small Steps 4 Hannah Foundation:

“There are so many things that need to go right for a victim of coercive control to escape their situation.

“They need to have the strength to get out, and they need to have the support of their closest friends and family.

“We urge everyone who sees friends or loved ones experiencing coercive control to give them unconditional support.

“It often takes many attempts to leave, and they need to know that their networks will be there for them when they make that break.

“Most of all, they need to know that when they do make a move that the law will be there to back them up, and as a result of this legislation victims will at last have that extra layer of support that only the criminal justice system can provide.

Quotes attributable to Womens’ Legal Service QLD CEO Nadia Bromley:

“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.

Quotes attributable to Domestic Violence Action Centre CEO Amie Carrington:

"The Domestic Violence Action Centre (DVAC) commend the recommendations of the Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce.

“DVAC will always fight for the safety and healing for victim survivors of Domestic and Sexual Violence.  

“Many people who seek help from our service are experiencing Coercive Control as a part of the abuse that they are victim to.

“It is important that we are recognising the patterns of Domestic Violence and moving away from incident-based responses and that we recognise the nuanced and complex dynamics of domestic abuse."