Coercive Control to be Criminalised in Queensland

This week, a landmark decision was made around the criminalisation of coercive control in Queensland. The Queensland Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, revealed that new legislation will be introduced to make coercive control a criminal offence, with a $363 million pledged to go towards these new laws. This long-awaited law comes just over two years after the murder of Hannah Clarke and her three children in Brisbane. So, what does this new law entail, and what does it mean for domestic violence victims in Queensland? Read on to find out more.


A Quick Explanation of Coercive Control

Coercive control in Queensland (and all other states and territories in Australia) is recognised as a pattern of controlling behaviour involving intimidation and manipulation to deliberately harm or frighten the victim. It is a behaviour used to maintain dominance over a partner, thereby restricting their freedom. When repeated over time, coercive control can lead to acts of violence, as witnessed in the case of Hannah Clarke and her children. Specific examples of coercive control include isolating the victim from friends and family, taking control of finances, keeping the victim under surveillance, and physically and sexually abusing the victim.


What Will the New Coercive Control Laws Be in Queensland?

In March 2021, Queensland saw the establishment of the Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce (the Taskforce) to examine coercive control and the need for a specific offence in the criminal justice system. From this Taskforce came a report, Hear Her Voice, in December 2021 that included 89 recommendations to criminalise this behaviour. The recommended offence for coercive control has a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment.

The Queensland Government officially responded to this report announcing that the state government supports, or supports in principle, all 89 recommendations and will work to implement them as soon as possible.

New laws will most likely be introduced into Parliament before the end of 2023, starting with reforms to strengthen the state’s existing legislative responses to coercive control. Under current laws, coercive control in Queensland is only punishable if the victim has previously filed for a Domestic Violence Order. Funding will also go towards a strategy for First Nations communities that aim to change perpetrators’ behaviour and stop the cycle of violence.

Queensland Government’s reform will focus on the following key action areas:

  • Systemic reforms across the state’s criminal justice system;
  • Increased awareness around coercive control in the community;
  • Improved primary prevention and domestic violence service system responses;
  • Increased training and education across parts of the domestic violence and justice system;
  • Improved police responses to domestic violence;
  • Enhanced systems in the Queensland Courts to ensure the victim’s safety;
  • New legislative amendments; and
  • New governance, reporting and accountability mechanisms.


What’s Next?

As recommended by the Taskforce, an inquiry will take place at the end of May 2022 for four months. Acting Queensland Police Service Commissioner, Steve Gollschewski, recently stated, “The inquiry is an opportunity for us to understand and reflect on what we can do, within our service, to better protect victims of DFV."

The following inquiries will be conducted in Queensland:

  • Commission of Inquiry into Queensland Police responses to domestic and family violence
  • Commission of Inquiry relating to the Crime and Corruption Commission
  • Review of culture and accountability in the Queensland public sector
  • Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce to review of the experience of women across the criminal justice system


Want to Know More About Coercive Control in Queensland?

This historic reform will no doubt address the issue, however, the laws surrounding coercive control and domestic violence in Queensland still have a long way to go. At Pullos Lawyers, we aim to protect victims of any sort of violence and can assist you with applying for Domestic Violence Orders. Please don’t hesitate to call us on 07 5526 3646 for a confidential and free 15-minute discussion with one of our solicitors. We can also support you with more information or next steps if you are preparing for separation and divorce.