Queensland to push on with criminalising coercive control despite questions over police culture

State government committed to introducing legislation by end of 2023 but police need ‘extensive training’, attorney general says

The Queensland attorney general says the state will not delay plans to criminalise coercive control, regardless of the findings of an ongoing commission of inquiry into police responses to domestic and family violence.

The inquiry has heard damning evidence about misogynistic, masculine and bullying cultures within the Queensland police service, which has heightened concerns that moves to introduce new laws outlawing coercive control could have unintended consequences for some women.

In particular, First Nations women and migrant women had raised concerns that new laws, in the hands of the same police service, would compound existing problems.

The attorney general, Shannon Fentiman, announced last year the state government would introduce legislation by the end of 2023 to make coercive control within domestic relationships a criminal offence.

The laws were recommended by the state’s women’s safety and justice taskforce, which first called for the commission of inquiry into “widespread cultural issues” within the QPS, based on concerns raised by dozens of women who shared their experiences.

The inquiry was always seen as a key part of a timeline towards criminalisation; it was designed to address concerns that a new law could have unintended consequences for women, given significant evidence about problematic police cultures, systemic issues related to domestic violence responses, and that police routinely misidentify victims.

The inquiry has sought more time to table its findings after evidence given by the commissioner, Katarina Carroll, sparked a flood of more than 200 new submissions. Guardian Australia understands the vast majority of these were negative about culture within the QPS.

The inquiry will now report back on 14 November instead of 4 October.

Fentiman told reporters on Monday the state was committed to its initial timeline for criminalisation, despite the delay to the inquiry and any potential findings.

“We are committed to following the timeline set out by the taskforce,” Fentiman said.

“Clearly we need extensive training for our first responders.

“I don’t want to pre-empt any findings of the commission of inquiry into police and how they’ve handled domestic and family violence matters, but quite clearly … some of the evidence that we’ve heard is there does need to be more training to support our first responders.

“The taskforce built that into the timeline when they suggested that we introduce the bill next year.”

On Monday, Fentiman announced that shield laws to protect journalists from revealing confidential sources would be extended to cover coercive hearings run by the state’s Crime and Corruption Commission.

Queensland will now begin consultations on new shield laws, which would likely be introduced early next year.

They would not be retrospective, meaning they would not apply to a situation involving a journalist, known as “witness F”, who has been threatened with prison for refusing to reveal a confidential source to the CCC.

Fentiman said the situation was complex and required consultation, but that the government was committed to ultimately broadening the scope of shield laws to cover the CCC.


Ben Smee and Eden Gillespie

The GuardianTramp

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