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Civil liberties council slams proposed consent changes

The peak body for civil liberties in Queensland has pushed back at a call from the LNP for changes to an "archaic legal loophole" that could allow sexual assaulters off the hook.

The Council today said, through a statement, they "supported the careful and deliberative manner in which Queensland's Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath is approaching calls for rape law reform".

Despite mounting pressure on Ms D'Ath from the Queensland Women's Legal Service, retired Supreme Court Justice Roslyn Atkinson, sexual assault survivors, and even those within Labor's own ranks, QCLC vice president Terry O'Gorman today said the Attorney-General's review of court of appeal judgements dealing with the area of law was not out of step with the process for law reform.

QCLC vice president Terry O’Gorman has called on the Palaszczuk Government to not give in to the loudest voices on the issue of consent laws.
QCLC vice president Terry O’Gorman has called on the Palaszczuk Government to not give in to the loudest voices on the issue of consent laws.

"Law reform should not be done by yielding to those who yell the loudest," he said.

"And we do not want a return to the days of the Newman Government where major law reform was carried out in secret without proper consultation."

Queensland's mistake of fact defence allows perpetrators in rape and sexual assault cases to argue even if a victim did not consent to sex, they mistakenly believed they had.

In other Australian states, laws provide extensive lists of circumstances where a person is not consenting to sex, including remaining silent.

Mr O'Gorman said that while intoxication was not a defence in crimes of violence, it is was "relevant" in rape cases "where intent and consent are at the core of a prosecution".

"Rape and sexual assault allegations arise largely between people who know each other where the acts occur in private and there are no witnesses. In those circumstances miscarriages of justice can easily occur," Mr O'Gorman said.

Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath has indicated she is close to revealing her course of action on the complex issue. Picture: Annette Dew
Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath has indicated she is close to revealing her course of action on the complex issue. Picture: Annette Dew

The QCLC vice president slammed those agitating for change saying: "Those criticising the Attorney-General for doing law reform in a measured and properly researched manner should pull back and allow the dispassionate and proper processes being engaged in by the Attorney-General to run its proper course".

LNP leader Deb Frecklington told The Courier-Mail that Queensland "has the most outdated consent laws in the country and it's time to act".

Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath has indicated she is close to revealing what action she will take on the issue.

"The Palaszczuk Government is considering the views of Queensland's foremost legal stakeholders and reviewing dozens of Court of Appeal judgments handed down since the definition of consent was previously amended almost 20 years ago," Ms D'Ath said.