Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced a wide-ranging review into the experiences of women across Queensland’s criminal justice system.
Ms Palaszczuk said she wanted to make sure sexual and domestic violence crimes were being reported and justice was being done.
“One in five Queensland women have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15 and one in four women have experienced violence at the hands of their partner,” she said in an early-morning Tweet announcing the review.
“We know that the experience of the criminal justice system for women as victims, survivors or accused is different than it is for men.
“We also know that women and girls are disproportionally affected as victims of sexual assault, but it remains one of the most under-reported crimes.
“Only a small proportion of reported cases are prosecuted in court and achieve a conviction.
“Women also face a range of barriers when they seek help, which can draw out the legal process adding to their trauma.”
The review will be conducted by the Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce, headed by former president of the Queensland Court of Appeal Margaret McMurdo.
It is due to report on how to best legislate against coercive control by October and to deliver recommendations to Government on how to best improve women’s experience in the criminal justice system and by March next year.
‘Don’t forget the women behind bars’
Founder of Sisters Inside, Debbie Kilroy, said the focus of the reform should include all women, particularly those most marginalised.
She said many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women needed support both in and out of the prison system.
“They are the most violated group in our community, but will they have a voice?” she said.
“These are the women who have been violated horrifically but because they are incarcerated, they are deemed as perpetrators.”
Ms Kilroy often worked with women who have not reported crimes against them or who have been turned away from police.
Ms Kilroy said that she worked with an Aboriginal woman just yesterday who had sought support from police and was told to stop “bothering” them.
“That’s not something new,” she said.
“This is what happens to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women all the time.
“We must address the fundamental racism.”
Ms Kilroy said she believed justice could be sought by moving away from police and towards other systems.
“There is a lot of women who actually don’t want to use the police because they feel more violated,” she said.
“Police don’t stop violence against women, we as a community must do that.”
Ms Kilroy said the police’s budget outweighed the amount spent on social housing.
“We need clear recommendations about … what needs to be done to stop violence against women and that could be many different forms of transformative justice,” she said.
Widespread under-reporting of offences
Dr Kerstin Braun from the University of Southern Queensland has done extensive research into the rights of victims of crime and violence against women.
Dr Braun said sexual violence goes largely unreported, with survey data consistently higher than offences reported to police.
She said some women who do report an offence and reach a trial can become retraumatised.
“So the first victimisation is the offence itself and then the second victimisation is the way they have been treated in the criminal justice system,” Dr Braun said.
Dr Braun suggested introducing legal representatives for victims of sexual offences as early as the police reporting stage.
The taskforce is expected to hand over a coercive control report in October, while a wider criminal justice system report will be due in March next year.