Coercive Control: “Hannah’s Law” Passed In Queensland

By Natalia Hutchison |06 March 2024 |Domestic and Family Violence-Articles

Coercive Control: “Hannah’s Law” Passed In Queensland
This article contains details of domestic and family violence which may be triggering for some readers. Contact 1800RESPECT if you or someone you know is in need of support.

More than four years after the tragic murder of Hannah Clarke and her three children, the groundbreaking "Hannah's Law" has now been passed by Queensland Parliament.

It was in February of 2020 that Hannah was driving her three children Aaliyah, Laianah, and Trey to school when Hannah's estranged ex-husband doused their car with petrol and set it alight, resulting in the loss of all four lives. This tragic and insidious portrayal of domestic and family violence sparked a widespread outpouring of grief, as well as a greater focus on a form of family violence known as "coercive control".

What is Coercive Control?

Coercive control is a form of psychological manipulation and abuse that involves a pattern of behaviour used by one person to dominate, manipulate, and control another person. It can manifest in various ways, including isolation from friends and family, monitoring or controlling activities, financial control, emotional abuse, intimidation, and threats. Unlike physical abuse, which leaves visible scars, coercive control operates through subtle tactics aimed at undermining the victim's autonomy, independence, and sense of self-worth.

One of the distinguishing features of coercive control is its cumulative and ongoing nature. It operates as a gradual process, with the abuser exerting increasing levels of control over time. This prolonged exposure to controlling behaviour can have profound psychological and emotional effects on the victim, leading to feelings of fear, helplessness, and dependency.

"Hannah's Law"

The Criminal Law (Coercive Control and Affirmative Consent) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2023 (Qld) has introduced the offense of coercive control to the Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld), carrying a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment. The legislation states that where:

  • - the person is in a domestic relationship with another person;
  • - the person engages in a course of conduct against the other person that consists of domestic violence occurring on more than one occasion;
  • - the person intends the course of conduct to coerce or control the other person; and
  • - the course of conduct would, in all the circumstances, be reasonably likely to cause the other person harm (with ‘harm’ defined in the Bill to mean any detrimental effect on the person’s physical, emotional, financial, psychological or mental wellbeing, whether temporary or permanent);

the person would be committing a crime of coercive control. By explicitly defining coercive control as a criminal offense and outlining the specific criteria under which it constitutes a crime, the legislation provides clarity and accountability in combating this insidious form of abuse.

In addition to this, engaging in domestic violence to aid a perpetrator will also become an offence under the new legislation. This bill also sees the introduction of new aggravating factors for domestic violence offences, the establishment of a court-based perpetrator diversion scheme, and an amendment to consent laws to ensure they better reflect community expectations of equality and mutual respect in sexual relationships, through affirmative consent.

The Queensland Government is yet to confirm when the legislation will come into effect, however has ensured that the delay is only to ensure critical work can occur with the community and frontline responders to be prepared for the legislative changes.

This monumental decision marks a pivotal moment in the fight against domestic abuse and underscores the importance of recognising and addressing coercive control within relationships. The passing of Hannah's Law acknowledges that coercive control is not merely a relationship issue, but a criminal offense that can have severe and long-lasting effects on victims. By criminalising coercive control, Queensland has taken a proactive stance in safeguarding the well-being and rights of individuals within intimate relationships.

What's Next?

The passage of Hannah's Law in Queensland represents a significant milestone in the fight against coercive control and domestic abuse. It underscores the importance of recognising coercive control as a criminal offense and taking proactive steps to address it. As Queensland leads the way in addressing coercive control through legislative action, it sends a powerful message that such behaviour will not be tolerated in any form.

However, legislative changes alone are not enough to combat coercive control effectively. It requires a concerted effort from communities, businesses, and individuals to challenge the attitudes and behaviours that enable such abuse to persist. By fostering a culture of respect, empathy, and support, we can create safer and healthier relationships for all.

If you or someone you know is experiencing coercive control or family violence, it's crucial to seek help and support. There are ample resources and professionals available who can provide guidance, support, and assistance tailored to your specific needs. Take the first step today by reaching out for help, to one of the below providers:

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If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic and family violence, it is also important to obtain specialist legal advice.

Reaching out for help in a situation of domestic and family violence can be difficult and often takes courage, especially when you second guess yourself and wonder what others will think about you and your situation. Fear, anger, and frustration can also be present if you find yourself in this situation.

In our experience as family lawyers, we have seen and heard a lot of things. Our job is to care for, support, and protect you and your children.

Experienced Domestic and Family Violence Lawyers

If this article has raised any questions for you, don’t hesitate to contact our Brisbane, Ipswich, North Lakes, or Toowoomba today by phoning 07 4639 0000 or emailing us at [email protected].

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