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Coercive Control

Potts Lawyers > Criminal Law & Offences  > Coercive Control

Coercive Control

coercive control potts lawyers

New domestic violence laws in Queensland to criminalise coercive control

On 10 May 2022, the Premier, Annastacia Palaszscuk announced plans to introduce legislation in Queensland to make coercive control a criminal offence.

This was influenced by the 2020 death of Ms Hannah Clarke and her three children, who were murdered by her estranged husband, Mr Rowan Baxter and the October 2021 ‘Hear Her Voice’ report by the Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce.

This report outlined how best to legislate against coercive control and made 89 recommendations to the Queensland Government about essential reforms required to the domestic violence service and justice systems.


What is coercive control?

There is no single definition of coercive control, but it is a pattern of behaviour designed to control another person in a domestic relationship.

Generally, it can include:

  • the gradual isolation of a person from their friends, family and other supports;
  • degrading put downs;
  • humiliation and threats;
  • ‘gaslighting’;
  • monitoring a person’s movements—including through electronic devices;
  • using technology and/or social media to control and manipulate a person;
  • limiting access to money;
  • removing reproductive control; and
  • micro-managing every aspect of a person’s life— what they wear, when and what they can cook, eat, sleep, leave the house…


This is not a complete list, and there are many other forms of coercive control from which a victim may suffer.

Some specific examples include:

  • exploiting particular vulnerabilities of a victim – such as a person who is from a culturally and linguistically diverse background and may be prevented from attending English languages classes;
  • withholding a person’s medication or basic care requirements;
  • using physical or sexual violence, or threats of this violence as a means of asserting control;
  • threatening to neglect or torture children or even the family pet; and
  • threatening to ‘out’ a person’s sexuality or gender identity without their consent if they identify as LGBTIQA+.


Effectively, coercive control includes assault, threats, intimidation, humiliation, and other abuse that erodes a person’s autonomy and ability to flourish.


What changes will be made to the legislation?

Whilst coercive and controlling behaviours are identified in the definition of domestic violence in the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012, coercive control does not currently constitute a criminal offence in Queensland. In other words, police cannot currently charge a person with coercive control.

At present, police can only take action if an incident has occurred, and not the controlling behaviour leading up to an incident.

For example, if there has been an incident or allegation of domestic violence such as, damaging a person’s property, stalking a person or physically injuring a person, police can take action regarding that specific incident; not the controlling behaviour that may have occurred prior to.

This is important because coercive controlling behaviour is viewed as a precursor for other forms of domestic violence, including stalking or injuring a person.

The new legislation will make behaviour of this nature a criminal offence. Additionally, the Queensland Government intends to implement all other recommendations made in the Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce’s Report.


When will coercive control become a criminal offence?

The Queensland Government aims for this new legislation to be in place by the end of 2023 with a recommended maximum penalty of 14 years.


How can we help

Please contact us to arrange an initial consultation if you have been victim to coercive control or have been accused of coercive control.


Next steps

It is critically important that you obtain independent legal advice as soon as possible.

We offer a non-obligation twenty (20) minute consultation to discuss your matter generally and have a law office on the Gold Coast and a law office in Brisbane.

You can contact our firm on (07) 5532 3133 to speak with one of our firm’s experienced criminal lawyers.


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