Criminal law reform
Criminal law outcomes have significant impacts on the rights and liberties of Queenslanders. To this end, criminal law reform must be evidenced-based and the subject of comprehensive consultation and consideration.
There is also an urgent need to address the high incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men, women and children. This should be done through engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, supporting community-developed and led diversionary initiatives and bail programs and by holistically addressing the underlying social and economic causes.
Priority must be given to the creation of an independent investigative body in Queensland to investigate and make prosecutorial recommendations with respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths in custody.
QLS calls for a commitment to:
- Increase funding for empirically-based drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs and to facilitate greater access for suitable candidates.
- Implement the recommendations of the Queensland Productivity Commission of Inquiry into Imprisonment and Recidivism, including the establishment of a Justice Reform Office to oversee criminal justice reform. This must include establishing an independent statutory body as recommended in the report with its objects being carefully developed so that achieving efficiency is balanced with improving the effectiveness of the criminal justice system.
- Review the effect of the Moynihan stage one reforms including their effect on access to justice and contribution to delay and additional applications in the superior courts.
- Refrain from the creation of new mandatory sentencing regimes and to take steps to repeal the current mandatory sentencing regimes.
- Reducing rates of remand by investigating bail assistance programs for young people and adults, with specific reference to the incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
- Implement community-led Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elder visitor and other culturally relevant programs in Queensland correctional facilities with a view to reducing incarceration and recidivism rates.
- Investigate and implement pilot programs that are alternatives to incarceration.
- Implement programs to deal with low-level offending, such as increased police drug diversion, adult cautioning, increased ticketing, increased funding for justice mediation and deferred prosecution arrangements for a broader range of offences.
- Maintain all diversionary and specialist courts.
- Refrain from abrogating the right to claim self-incrimination privilege (including derivative evidence) and draft revised provisions removing any such abrogation.
- Refrain from reversing the onus of proof for criminal and regulatory offences.
- Ensure that QPS officers and staff are adequately resourced and trained to respond appropriately to sexual assault reports and complaints, including staff in regional areas. In this regard:
- complainants should be provided with gender appropriate investigative officers;
- officers who are investigating sexual offences should have specialist training regarding sexual offences and trauma informed practice, as has occurred in Townsville with the specialist sexual offences police unit;
- complainants should be provided with one contact point, such as a victim support person, who is appointed at the initial stage and is able to support the complainant throughout the process;
- further training should be directed towards focussing upon the credibility of the complaint as opposed to the credibility of the complainant. This should include protecting complainant’s information that may be privileged and not disclosing protected counselling communications.
- To better resourcing of the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council and the maintenance of the Council as part of the Department of Justice and Attorney-General. The Council has maintained a principled and evidence-based stance against mandatory sentencing and has provided a calm and informed voice in public discourse in this often highly-contentious area of public policy. Since its re-formation in 2016, the Council has not only responded to four references from the Attorney- General and Minister for Justice, it has produced many materials, including videos, to assist the public to understand the role of sentencing in the justice system. The Council has established an Aboriginal and Torres Straights Islander Advisory Panel to assist it in dealing with the shocking over-representation of their people in prison, often serving very short sentences or on remand.