Sexual assault review recommendations:
Do not go far enough and continues to leave many Queensland women unprotected says
Women’s Legal Service
Women’s Legal Service Queensland (WLSQ) believes the Queensland Law Reform Commission’s review into consent and mistake of fact do not go far enough to make the criminal code safer for sexual assault survivors and domestic violence survivors, who can also be victims of intimate partner sexual violence.
WLSQ Counselling Notes Protect Solicitor, Julie Sarkozi said there is some movement on addressing archaic sexual violence legislation, but the proposed amendments still leave Queensland far behind other States, who made their legal changes decades ago.
“Part of the proposed reform invites the court to consider what steps, if any, the defendant took to determine consent. Essentially this means that we hope to see defendants being asked how they worked out that the other person was consenting.”
“In the Tasmanian model the steps the defendant took to identify consent must be considered whereas in the proposed Qld reforms the court does not have to consider this information. The Tasmanian law has been in place for 16 years.”
“We would have liked Qld laws to have more closely reflected the accountability that other State’s laws expect from parties charged with sexual assault.”
“The notion of being ‘reckless’ as to consent has not been explicitly included as negating consent on the face of the legislation as it does in NSW, which is concerning”.
“We had hoped that the Qld Law Reform Commission would also recommend Guiding Principles to be incorporated within our criminal code (as in Victoria) to challenge damaging stereotypes and rape myths, and importantly to provide a framework to stakeholders within the justice system to understand sexual violence. We feel this was an important leadership and educative opportunity missed”.
“We had also hoped that our definition of consent would include the word ‘agreement’ to reflect more contemporaneous notions of affirmative consent and of both parties being willing participants.”
“There are no recommendations for a history of domestic violence to be explicitly considered in relation to sexual assault matters or for the ways a history of an abusive relationship may impact on a women’s ability to provide consent. It is extremely disappointing that the review has not addressed this, as women often experience sexual violence in the broader context of domestic violence”.
The report noted that a broader review across government was needed to examine the experience of women in the criminal justice system to address high attrition rates in sexual assault matters. WLSQ has previously called on the Queensland Government for a number of years to undertake a broad-based review of the state’s response to sexual violence and domestic violence in the criminal justice system.
“We call on the Government as a matter of urgency and priority undertake a broader, independent review into the experiences of Queensland sexual assault survivors in the criminal justice system. It’s vital that any review is broad-based, independent and includes the voices of sexual violence survivors and the services that support them”.
Available for comment