Coercive Control

On Wednesday, 11 October 2023, under historic proposed laws introduced by the Palaszczuk government, coercive control has been approved to become a separate criminal offence in Queensland. 

Coercive control is described to be a pattern of behaviour that can include emotional, mental and financial abuse, isolation, intimidation, sexual coercion and cyberstalking. 

Beyond DV Founder and Managing Director, Carolyn Robinson, provided that most of the women that seek help at her charity have experienced some form of coercive control in a relationship. She followed by saying:  

Sadly coercive control is a very common form of abuse…I would say that probably 95 per cent of the women that come through our organisation have experienced coercive control in one form or another, and we’ve had men experiencing it also. 

The coercive control offence will carry a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison, following a recommendation by the Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce. 

Minister for Women Shannon Fentiman provided: 

Because of the stories that we have heard from Sue and Lloyd Clarke, from Vanessa Fowler and so many other family members, we know just how dangerous coercive control really is…We know that it is dangerous enough to now be a crime here in Queensland. 

The Queensland government has said that the new legislation will cover conduct in which an adult in a domestic relationship: 

  1. Engages in behaviour that involves domestic violence on more than one occasion; 
  2. They intend the course of conduct to coerce or control the other person; and 
  3. It is reasonably likely to cause the other person harm. 
 
The harm has been defined to include physical, emotional, financial, psychological or mental harm, whether it is temporary or permanent. This was a recommendation by the Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce to “address what victims have told the taskforce about their distress at being subjected to abuse, not only by their perpetrator but also by the family and friends of the perpetrator and others hired to locate and monitor them”. 
 
The Queensland government has also announced that there will be community education campaigns and training on coercive control, while the proposed laws are set to establish a court-based perpetrator diversion scheme. 

Affirmative Consent

The Queensland legislation has also proposed an affirmative consent model, following in the steps of the New South Wales and Victorian government. This would mean that it is an offence for someone to commit domestic abuse on behalf of a perpetrator. 

Lawyer and domestic and family violence prevention advocate, Angela Lynch provided:  

The introduction of affirmative consent laws in Queensland is really as a result of 30 to 40 years of advocacy by victim-survivors…We’re on the cusp of transformative change in relation to sexual violence. We have to increase accountability in our community. 

This Queensland legislation also seeks to criminalise “stealthing”, which is the act of removing or tampering with a condom without the other person’s knowledge or consent. 

Minister for Women Shannon Fentiman provided: 

Failing to use or interfering with a condom strikes at the heart of a person’s right to bodily autonomy and their right to choose whether and how they participate in a sexual activity… 

Other proposed changes include reforms to the operation of the “mistake of fact” defence, which is when an accused submits that there was a reasonable mistake of fact in resulting in the accused being convinced, on reasonable grounds, that the incriminating result could not occur. 

We are specialist abuse lawyers and can help you receive acknowledgement, meaningful apology and financial resolution from those institutions and systems of power that failed to protect you from harm. If you would like advice in relation to a childhood or adult sexual, physical and/or psychological/emotional abuse claim in any jurisdiction in Australia, please reach out to the author, Emily Wright, at Littles Lawyers today. 

Further Abuse Law information written by our Emily Wright can be found on our website.

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