Police union boss asks why hierarchy won’t confront issue that takes up half of the force’s time

There are concerns Queensland police haven’t given any feedback on proposed domestic violence laws amid widespread doubts about the service’s ability to enforce them.

Nov 07, 2022, updated Nov 07, 2022
Queensland Police Union President Ian Leavers. (AAP Image/Darren England)

Queensland Police Union President Ian Leavers. (AAP Image/Darren England)

A bill to change laws to allow for the later criminalisation of coercive control is being examined by a parliamentary committee on Monday.

Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers says he supports coercive control laws as an extra tool to “make the world a better place”.

Leavers says domestic violence cases take up almost half of the policing workload, and the Queensland police received 140,000 domestic violence calls 2021.

However, he’s concerned the Queensland Police Service isn’t taking part in the inquiry into the laws.

“It is concerning the Queensland Police Service is not playing a larger role in the formulation of legislation to combat it,” the union president told the committee on Monday.

“I would further suggest that the police service has not been part of this inquiry, and I think it would be incumbent on them as one of the leading agencies in Queensland that they should be before this inquiry to provide a submission.”

Leavers said he had concerns about the ability of police to enforce any coercive control laws without proper training and resourcing, given the QPS’ fixed budget.

Specialist investigators with a expert knowledge and experience in coercive control are needed to enforce those laws.

“I’ll say this from working with child protection, you’ve actually got to have a passion for that sort of work,” he said.

Leavers said investigating coercive control takes time, and police can’t just sit down with vulnerable witnesses and take statements for three hours.

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It could take days, he said, and trying to build a relationship to gather evidence is challenging for police.

“Me turning up as a middle aged man … you’ve gotta develop a relationship with a person who’s been a victim for many years for them to open up to you. It’s not easy,” the union boss said.

The Queensland Family and Child Commission backed the proposed laws, but said it’s essential that people understand coercive control is not about moments, but longer periods of time.

“It is a journey, that you have to take the perpetrator, the survivor and the children on, making our policing both highly responsive to an event and an incident, but trauma-informed and recognising that a journey occurs then, with all the people involved, that were here for the long haul,” it said.

“Either the police services themselves or through referrals to child safety, non-government organisations has to connect those children, that woman and the extended family and the perpetrator to support intensive support to ensure that the cycle doesn’t continue.”

The proposed laws includes penalties for offenders who breach domestic violence orders, protection notices or release conditions when the breach involves physical violence.

Evidence of a history of domestic violence will be admissible in court proceedings under the bill, and domestic violence will be considered an aggravating factor in sentencing.

The proposed laws will also allow non-criminal victims of domestic violence to access assistance from the victims of crime scheme.

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