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Queensland moves to criminalise coercive control after murder of Hannah Clarke and her children

Annastacia Palaszczuk appoints taskforce of legal and domestic violence experts and victims to investigate how to legislate

By Amanda Gearing

The Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, has appointed a taskforce of legal and domestic violence experts and victims to investigate how to legislate to criminalise coercive control.

The taskforce will report to the Queensland government by October this year and will be chaired by former court of appeal judge Margaret McMurdo AC.

Queensland attorney general Shannon Fentiman announced on Wednesday morning that she hoped to introduce legislation into the Queensland parliament at the beginning of next year.

The need for legislation was raised after the murder of Hannah Clarke and her three children by Clarke’s husband, who ambushed Hannah and their children on their way to school, poured petrol in their car and set the car on fire.

Hannah had been subjected to years of coercive control by her husband, who isolated her from family and friends, tracked her movements, controlled who she spoke to, what she wore, where she went, when she slept and whether she saw a doctor.

Research has shown that coercive control is more highly correlated with intimate partner homicide than is physical abuse but several types of coercive controlling behaviour are not direct crimes.

Coercive control was made a crime in England, Ireland and Wales in 2015 and in Scotland in 2015

Hannah’s parents, Lloyd and Sue Clarke, did not realise the extent of the behaviour or the seriousness of the danger to Hannah or their grandchildren.

However, since their deaths on 19 February 2020, the couple has campaigned for coercive and controlling behaviours to be designated as crimes in Australia.

Fentiman said the Palaszczuk government would seek community input on the proposed laws.

“It needs to be considered from all perspectives to ensure we get it right,” she said.

“We will consult with a wide range of survivors, domestic and sexual violence service providers, legal and domestic violence experts and the community.

“That includes Hannah Clarke’s parents, Lloyd and Sue, in the development of a new approach to coercive control.”

Police and other first responders will be provided with training to recognise and respond to coercive control, as well as developing a community awareness campaign, Fentiman said.

She said she was confident in the leadership of McMurdo to assist the government to deliver strong, robust and carefully considered new laws.

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