Queensland Government Delivers Consent Law Reforms

consent law reform

The protection of women was again at the forefront of the legislative agenda of the Palaszczuk Labor Government as it delivered significant consent law reforms in Parliament yesterday.

Attorney-General and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence said these consent law reforms were an important first step in modernising consent laws in Queensland.

By providing clarity in these laws, and making consent laws more accessible, and with better safeguards, we will have the strong legal system in place to keep more Queensland women safe, and hold perpetrators to account.

Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Minister for Women and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence, The Honourable Shannon Fentiman

“We have enshrined in the Criminal Code principles like silence doesn’t amount to consent, consent once given can be withdrawn and the self-intoxication of a defendant cannot be relied upon by that defendant to show that they were mistaken about whether or not consent was given and that was reasonable.
“This will provide clarity for judges to properly direct juries and get better outcomes for victims.”

All five recommendations made by the Queensland Law Reform Commission in its review of consent laws and excuse of mistake of fact were implemented including enshrining in the criminal code the four key principles.

The Queensland Law Reform Commission is an independent statutory body established under the Law Reform Commission Act 1968. The Commission's key statutory duties, as provided in section 10(3) of the Law Reform Commission Act, include duties to:

+ undertake law reform reviews referred to it by the Attorney-General;
+ prepare and submit to the Attorney-General from time to time a proposed program of law reform reviews, for review and approval by the Attorney-General; and
+ undertake any approved program of law reform reviews, subject to any variations made by the Attorney-General in terms of the proposed reviews or their order of priority.

The Commission makes recommendations for law reform in reports submitted to the Attorney-General which are required to be tabled in Parliament. 

The Commission examined the transcripts of 135 rape and sexual assault trials and 40 appellate decisions to help determine its recommendations. The Commission found four legal principles operating in current case law, but that these principles were not explicitly spelt out in the criminal code.

These include:

  • silence alone does not amount to consent;
  • consent initially given can be withdrawn;
  • a defendant is not required to take any particular steps to ascertain consent but the jury can consider anything the defendant said or did when considering whether they were mistaken about consent;
  • the voluntary intoxication of the defendant is irrelevant to the reasonableness of their belief about consent, though it can be relevant to the honesty of that belief.

“I understand that some stakeholders believe the laws could go further, and I acknowledge there is always more to do. Our Government will always look at ways we can eliminate violence against women from our community.”

This month, the Premier and the Attorney-General announced a wide-ranging review of women’s experiences in the criminal justice system to be conducted by the Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce – led by the Hon Margaret McMurdo AC.

“The taskforce will look at ways to break down the barriers women face from when they report the crime all the way to their experience in the court.

“These are complex laws that need extensive consultation to get this right, and if the taskforce find that consent laws need amending, our Government will act.”

The 10 member Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce will look into possible future areas of reform, including attitudinal change, prevention, service response and legislative amendment.

Key initiatives of the Taskforce to date include: