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The Honourable Yvette D’Ath MP

Attorney-General and Minister for Justice


GPO Box 149
Brisbane QLD 4001

To the Hon. Ms. D’Ath,

RE: Request for inquiry and report on the state of sex crime responses in Queensland

Queensland’s legislation and procedural responses to complaints of sex crimes trail far
behind the examples set by other states and territories. This two-page summary outlines the
key areas that need the most urgent attention, and is a formal request for the Queensland
government to announce an inquiry beyond “consent” legislation. Please see the final page
for a list of signatories to this issue including academics, advocates, and organisations.

This proposal for a review is based on the three-step experience of a complainant (either child
or adult) who has experienced sexual violence:
1. First responses and the Queensland Police Service
2. Delays and the Department of Public Prosecutions
3. Trials, Legislation, Juries, and the Judiciary
 
Stage  1  –  First  responses  and  the  Queensland  Police  Service  
• Case attrition is highest at this first stage when individual officers exercise discretion
on whether or not to investigate complaints. Investigators are more likely to pursue
matters where the defendant is a stranger to the complainant and where the complainant
has physical injuries, but data indicates the majority of sex offending occurs within a
domestic setting and without physical violence.
• There are no mechanisms to guarantee an individual can speak with an officer of their
preferred gender in a timely manner.
• Other states have protocols whereby a complainant’s first police statement can also be
used later as evidence-in-chief at hearings, protecting the complainant from having to
repeat their story numerous times at different stages.
• Individual officers are not provided with adequate training or resources to deal with the
specific challenges that accompany sex crimes. Other jurisdictions have dedicated
teams (Victoria has “SOCIT”, the Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigations
Team, for example) that allow complainants to have a steady point of contact
throughout all three stages of the legal process.
• Without dedicated departments for these crimes, culturally and linguistically diverse
complainants are poorly understood and catered for. This is particularly true for
Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders who are at-risk for sexual victimisation but
who experience the most discrimination from the legal system.
 
Stage  2  –  Delays  and  the  Department  of  Public  Prosecutions  
• The “handover” process of a brief of evidence from the QPS to the DPP is often a
source of great frustration to both sides and there is inadequate reporting on where
individual prosecutors exercise discretion not to commit a matter to hearing despite a
brief of evidence having been gathered.
• Survivors frequently complain of being pressured to accept plea deals by rushed and
discouraging prosecutors. No data is kept to monitor deals, allowing the DPP to
economise (running sentences instead of trials) without accountability.
• “Acceptable delays” range from two to four (or more) years. Unsurprisingly, many
complainants find this painful process simply too protracted, and withdraw. Goals for
timeframes (from charges to indictment, then indictment to hearing) must be tightened
for sex crimes matters and judicial officers ought to be alert to either prosecution or
defence not acting with utmost expedience.
• Complainants are allocated a “victim liaison officer” but this individual may changes
multiple times in the years-long process and can be difficult to contact.
 
Stage  3  –  Trials,  Juries,  and  the  Judiciary  
• The “Mistake of Fact” (s24 of the Criminal Code) defence circumvents critical updates
to the legal definition of consent and is widely agreed upon as the most archaic
example of sex crime legislation in the entire country.
• Counsel are currently entitled to 12 pre-emptory challenges of potential jurors, allowing
them to significantly shape the makeup of a panel. In Victoria this has been reduced to
four, and the process has been abolished altogether in the UK.
• New Zealand demonstrates promising results in judge-alone trials for sex crimes.
• There are no time limits to complainants being cross-examined, and judicial officers
rarely step in to control aggressive or cruel counsel.
• There is a critical need for court-appointed experts in trauma responses (eg. “freezing”)
to counter prevailing rape myths in jurors and counsel.
• In New South Wales complainant testimony at trial is recorded so that a legal error by
counsel doesn’t result in the complainant having to go through the entire process again
at appeal. In Queensland this is only available for children.
 
Legislative  reform  is  not  enough  
Following the ABC Four Corners report on the trial and appeals of Luke Lazarus, the New
South Wales government announced a review of their consent legislation. Most submissions
it received from industry organisations indicated that changing legislation would not be
enough to improve the fundamental unfairness of the system. The three steps outlined above
affect each other and should not be considered in isolation. Furthermore, where attrition is
highest at the first two stages, reforming legislation alone would not assist the majority of
women who withdraw or whose matters are simply never even investigated.

About me
I am a lawyer and legal researcher who has previously worked in the Queensland District
Court. I have also experienced the justice system from the perspective of a survivor, making a
formal police complaint of historical child sexual abuse in 2015 and after a two-year
investigation going to trial where the defendant was found guilty.

I look forward to a meeting with you to discuss these issues.

Kind regards,

Bri Lee
Signatories  to  this  letter  
 
• Professor of Law at Bond University, Dr Jonathan Crowe
• Professor of Law at University of Queensland, Dr Heather Douglas
• Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Griffith University Institute of Criminology, Dr
Robyn Holder
• Lecturer in Criminology at University of New South Wales, Dr Bianca Fileborn
• Senior Lecturer in Criminology at Monash University, Dr Asher Flynn
• Dr Nicola Henry is Associate Professor and Principal Research Fellow in the Centre
for Global Research at RMIT University
• Associate Professor of Criminology and Justice Studies at RMIT University, Dr
Anastasia Powell
• Scientia Associate Professor at University of New South Wales, Dr Michael Salter
• Professor  of  Media  and  Cultural  Studies  at  Macquarie  University,  Dr  Catharine  
Lumby  

• Survivor and advocate, Saxon Mullins


• Survivor and advocate, Nina Funnell
• Author, broadcaster, and advocate, Tracey Spicer

• CEO of Women’s Legal Service Queensland, Angela Lynch


• Directors of End Rape On Campus Australia, Sharna Bremner and Anna Hush
• CEO of Beyond Abuse, Steve Fisher
• Managing Partner of Marque Lawyers, Michael Bradley
• Executive Officer of Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia, Karen Willis
• Manager of Women With Intellectual & Learning Disabilities (WWILD), Leona
Berrie