The Palaszczuk Government will refer the matter of consent in rape and sexual assault cases to the Queensland Law Reform Commission, Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath and Minster for Women Di Farmer announced today.
“The Palaszczuk Government has a proud record of law reform in the area of sexual violence and supporting victims,” Mrs D’Ath said.
This includes providing sexual assault victims with protection to ensure their private communication with counsellors cannot be easily accessed by alleged offenders in court proceedings and classifying victims of sexual offences who give evidence in criminal proceedings as ‘special witnesses’ to enable the court to make a range of orders or directions to support them.
More than $17 million was set aside in the 2019-20 State Budget to deliver new and enhanced domestic and family violence and sexual assault support services.
Earlier this year, the Palaszczuk Government delivered on its commitment to introduce legislation against the non-consensual sharing of intimate images, often referred to as ‘revenge porn’. Anyone convicted of distributing or threatening to distribute intimate images or prohibited visual recordings of a person without their consent now faces up to three years in jail.
Mrs D’Ath said the Queensland Law Reform Commission would consider evidence before making a recommendation to the government.
“There are many views on this matter,” the Attorney-General said.
“I have been consulting with legal stakeholders, and Minister Farmer has also been consulting with sexual violence service providers, victims and survivors, and other members of the community.”
Ms Farmer said sexual violence was an issue which has had a deep and tragic impact on victims and survivors, which is why it was important to make sure any reforms are carefully considered.
“We need to be sure we are supporting those victims and survivors in the best way possible, which is why at the end of last year I announced that the Palaszczuk Labor Government would be developing a Sexual Violence Framework,” she said.
“During our six month consultation on the Framework, the issue of consent was consistently raised by victims and survivors, their families, and service providers.
“Some of the experiences shared were absolutely heartbreaking, and we owe it to victims and survivors to get these laws right.”
Mrs D’Ath said under Queensland’s Criminal Code, consent must be given freely and voluntarily by someone with the capacity to give it, and anyone found guilty of rape could be jailed for life.
“Any potential change should be based on evidence after expert advice,” she said.
“We are taking leadership on this issue, one which is deeply personal for many Queenslanders.
“Referring this issue to the Queensland Law Reform Commission gives an opportunity for all voices to be heard, and to get the law right.”
The Government has already considered the views of Queensland’s foremost legal stakeholders and reviewed dozens of Court of Appeal judgments handed down since the definition of consent was previously amended almost 20 years ago in making the decision to refer it to the Queensland Law Reform Commission.
Attorney-General and Minister for Justice
The Honourable Yvette D'Ath
Minister for Child Safety, Youth and Women and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence
The Honourable Di Farmer