Women’s Task Force calls for sweeping changes to Queensland justice system

This article contains references to domestic violence and sexual assault.
A major review has called for sweeping changes to the way Queensland’s criminal justice system deals with victims of sexual assault and violence.
The final report of the Women’s Safety and Justice Task Force includes 188 recommendations to improve the experience of women and girls.
Led by former Court of Appeal President Margaret McMurdo, the task force received more than 300 submissions, including more than 250 from sexual assault survivors and 19 from offenders.
Released Friday by Attorney General Shannon Fentiman, the report highlights the importance of reform.

It follows the findings of an investigation into the murders of Brisbane wife Hannah Clarke and her three children at the hands of her husband, Rowan Baxter.

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“Sexual violence remains one of the most heinous forms of violence in Australian society, with women accounting for around 84 per cent of reported sexual assault victims,” Ms Fentiman said.
“Two in five of these assaults can be linked to domestic and family violence.”
Ms Fentiman said this was the ‘incomprehensible reality’ facing victims and why it was vital to remove all barriers preventing women from coming forward to use the justice system.
The attorney general said the findings and recommendations of Justice McMurdo’s report would be carefully considered, including in relation to Queensland’s consent laws.

“The previous work and recommendations of the Women’s Safety and Justice Task Force speak volumes,” she said.

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The task force was established in March 2021 with the first report, Hear her voice, making 89 recommendations, including a new criminal offense of coercive control.
The state government has pledged to introduce the legislation by the end of 2023.
Coercive control includes isolating a partner from family and friends, monitoring their movements, controlling their access to money, and psychological and emotional manipulation.
This form of violence affects women disproportionately.
The government has also allocated $363 million to expand domestic violence courts, strengthen support services, plan a First Nations strategy and fund programs for perpetrators “to change men’s behaviour.”

“These are complex issues that require careful attention to determine how best to strengthen our criminal justice system to better respond to women and girls who are victims of violence,” Ms. Fentiman said.

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The task force examined possible areas of reform in community prevention and outreach, reporting, state service response and support for victims as they navigate the justice system and legislative changes possible.
It also examined the impacts of resources to address sexual violence, the overrepresentation of First Nations women in the justice system, community attitudes towards consent laws, and the general barriers women face when ‘they report crimes until their experiences in court.
“We are committed to ending all forms of domestic, family and sexual violence in this state and know there is still much work to do,” Ms Fentiman said.
If you or someone you know is affected by family and domestic violence or sexual assault, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit . In an emergency, call 000.