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Queensland has become only the second state, after New South Wales, to criminalise coercive control.

Queensland has become only the second state in Australia, after New South Wales, to criminalise coercive control. The Criminal Law (Coercive Control and Affirmative Consent) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2023 passed in the Queensland Parliament on 6 March 2024.

The reforms will protect victims of domestic, family, and sexual violence and hold perpetrators to account. “What we know is that coercive control is the most common factor that leads to domestic violence murders,” says Queensland Premier Steven Miles.

“We have made strides to help people identify and report coercive control and we know by criminalising this offence, even more lives will be saved.”

“We know that non-physical violence is just as dangerous as physical violence,” says Queensland Minister for Health, Mental Health and Minister for Women Shannon Fentiman. “Coercive control is also the biggest predicting factor for intimate partner homicide,” she says.

Queensland is the second state in Australia to criminalise coercive control. The Crimes Legislation Amendment (Coercive Control) Act 2022 (NSW) (NSW Act) was passed in 2022 and will commence from 1 July 2024. The NSW Act introduces provisions relating to abusive conduct towards current and former partners, defines conduct that constitutes “abusive behaviour”, and what is meant by “course of conduct”.

A key difference between the Queensland and New South Wales legislation is that the Queensland Bill criminalises “stealthing”, which is the act of removing a condom during sexual intercourse without consent, where the other person has only consented to protected intercourse.

“Affirmative consent shifts the scrutiny away from the victim and towards the accused, looking to the actions they took to confirm consent,” says Fentiman.

“Stealthing is a serious violation of consent – it is rape, and it should be treated as such under the law.”

Hayley Dean, a solicitor advocate in the crime division at Legal Aid NSW, says the use of the word “stealthing” is positive, because it reflects current day language.  “People understand what it means,” says Dean. “That’s helpful for the public to understand what it is and why it’s illegal”.

As for the NSW coercive control legislation, the courts will examine the entire history between the parties to establish whether there has been a course of conduct to coerce or control the other person. Generally, there needs to be evidence of more than a single threatening text or email.

“Is it intending to coerce or control the person that they are sending them to? And again, I think that can be evidenced in the language,” says Dean.

Ultimately it will be up to the courts to decide and if convicted, the maximum penalty for coercive control under the New South Wales legislation is seven years imprisonment. The maximum penalty under the Queensland Bill is 14 years imprisonment.