Qld lawyer calls for rape law reform

Prominent Queensland lawyer Bill Potts is calling for reform to the state’s rape laws.A high-profile Queensland criminal lawyer says more clarity is needed around consent in rape laws, as victim advocates repeat calls for the state government to review current legislation.
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Bill Potts, one of ‘s most senior criminal defence practitioners, said regular law reform was necessary to reflect changes in society and welcomed discussion on creating a clearer definition of consent.

“If there is a better way of expressing a law – then let’s have that debate,” he told AAP.

Mr Potts said clarity on consent would give justice to victims of the crime, those charged with criminal offences, and jurors.

His comments come as rape victim advocates repeat their concerns that the state’s sexual consent laws are so outdated that most assaults go unreported.

Women’s Legal Service solicitor Julie Sarkozi said the offence of rape is easier to defend in Queensland than in any other state, because defendants can still argue they mistakenly believed they had consent.

“The existing rape laws are failing Queenslanders so badly that the majority of rapes go unreported,” she told ABC radio on Wednesday.

The service, which provides free legal advice and social support to domestic violence victims, wants the Queensland government to follow the lead of NSW.

NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman referred consent laws to the Law Reform Commission and declared a “systemic problem” with sexual assault reporting and convictions in the state.

His actions were in response to Saxon Mullins speaking out about her ordeal as an 18-year-old virgin when she says she was anally raped by Luke Lazarus in a Kings Cross alleyway behind a nightclub in 2013.

Mr Lazarus was acquitted after a judge ruled the 21-year-old believed he had consent.

Queensland Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington has urged Annastacia Palaszczuk’s Labor government to take similar action to NSW.

“What has gone is absolutely abhorrent,” she said in reference to the Lazarus case.

“I would support a review into those laws, I think it’s important, if other states are looking into consent.”

Responding to calls from the Women’s Legal Service for a legal review earlier this month, Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath said the state government would await the NSW findings before it considered taking action.

Ms D’Ath said she would ask the Women’s Legal Service to provide specific examples of their concerns.

“We have a strong criminal code in Queensland with a clear definition of consent and a maximum penalty of life for rape,” she told AAP.

“The Palaszczuk government has a track record of working with stakeholders on reform to the code where required.”

Consent was at the centre of a recent trial in Brisbane, where defendants Ryan David George and Jack Scott Turner Winship argued a woman had agreed to sex with them in a West End alley.

The men were sentenced in the Brisbane District Court to at least four years and three months jail on Wednesday.

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