Mr McEACHAN (Redlands—LNP) (4.48 pm): I rise to speak to the Criminal Law (Domestic Violence) Amendment Bill (No.2). I speak in support of this bill and its implementation of recommendations made in the Bryce Not now, not ever report. In September 2014 the former LNP government established the Special Taskforce on Domestic and Family Violence to be chaired by the Hon. Dame Quentin Bryce. This task force delivered its report on 28 February 2015 and made 140 recommendations including 121 recommendations for the government. I was pleased to see the government accept all these recommendations.
The Criminal Law (Domestic Violence) Amendment Bill (No. 2) implements some of these recommendations, including the creation of a provision for domestic and family violence to be an aggravating factor on sentence; to amend the Criminal Code in creating an offence of choking, suffocation or strangulation in a domestic setting; and to amend legislation allowing a court to receive a submission from a party on what they consider to be an appropriate sentence or sentence range for the court to impose. Our society will only be successful in tackling the scourge of domestic violence if all levels of government and political persuasions work together. I am pleased to say that the LNP opposition members have worked closely with government committee members on this hugely important issue. I would also like to acknowledge the hard work of shadow minister Tracy Davis on this issue.
The figures are damning. The Bryce task force reported that in 2013 more than 64,000 incidents of domestic and family violence were reported and 13,000 breaches of domestic violence orders occurred in Queensland. It is an indictment on our society. For far too long domestic and family violence was an issue that stayed in the shadows, a shameful stain on our society that has a place at the very heart of social dysfunction. This is an issue that touches us all and, unfortunately, it is all too common to find someone in our community affected by domestic or family violence. Even in this House, we have listened to many of our colleagues speak of their own harrowing experiences. I want to take a moment to acknowledge the bravery of my colleague the member for Mudgeeraba, Ros Bates, in sharing her story. I know that all of us listening to her speech late last year were deeply moved. It serves as a reminder for all of us in this House that on this issue we are working not only for Queenslanders as a whole and our electorates but also for each other. I am honoured to be a member of this parliament that is advocating for this issue and I passionately support this bill.
This bill implements recommendations 118 and 120 of the Bryce task force report. The task force undertook extensive consultation in preparing its report. The task force met with victims, service providers and community leaders in its consultation process. The recommendations made through this consultation are reflected in the amendments proposed through this bill.
The Bryce task force recommendation 118 was that the Queensland government introduce a circumstance of aggravation of domestic and family violence to be applied to all criminal offences. Rather than attaching a general circumstance of aggravation to any offence in the Criminal Code, which must be charged in the indictment and becomes a matter the Crown must prove beyond all reasonable doubt, this bill amends the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992 to make provision for domestic and family violence to be an aggravating factor on sentence. The amendment provides that the court must have regard to whether the offence constitutes an act of domestic and family violence when determining the appropriate sentence for an offender.
I note that the Bryce task force did recommend a specific circumstance of aggravation of domestic and family violence to all criminal offences. This bill proposes an alternate approach: providing that an aggravating factor must be considered on sentence. A circumstance of aggravation must be charged by the prosecution and is, therefore, a matter that must be proven beyond reasonable doubt. A previous High Court judgement of Barbaro & Zirilli v The Queen held that prosecutors were not permitted to make a submission to the court during a sentence hearing on the appropriate sentence to be imposed by the court. This decision led to a very significant shift to established practice in Queensland, which this bill proposes to restore.
The Bryce task force recommendation 120 refers to the creation of a specific offence of strangulation, choking or suffocation. Presently a person who unlawfully chokes, suffocates or strangles another person can now be charged under the Criminal Code with the offence dependent on the force used, the intent in committing the act and the injuries sustained by the victim. The new offence of strangulation will attract a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment. This penalty reflects the seriousness of this offence and that the behaviour is in itself extremely dangerous. The Bryce task force heard evidence that strangulation was often a key predictor of domestic homicide. It is vital that our law reflects that this violent situation is often a predictor of escalated risk to victims of domestic and family violence.
I urge all members to support this bill. It is vital that we continue to work on implementing the recommendations made by the Bryce report. I commend this bill to the House.