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    Coat of ArmsMedia Release
    Attorney-General and Minister for Justice and Minister for Training and Skills
    The Honourable Yvette D'Ath

    Law change to help victims of sexual assault

    Attorney-General and Minister for Justice and Minister for Training and Skills
    The Honourable Yvette D'Ath

    Friday, October 27, 2017

    Law change to help victims of sexual assault

    Victims of sexual assault will soon have their private counselling sessions protected from becoming public in court proceedings. 

    Attorney-General and Minster for Justice Yvette D’Ath said the new measures were about protecting victims and ensuring they could confidently seek counselling services to get the assistance they needed. 

    “We have a duty to do all we can to protect victims of sexual assault, and the Sexual Assault Counselling Privilege ensures victims can get the assistance they need after an assault without fear the information will be used against them in court,” Mrs D’Ath said. 

    Mrs D’Ath said the Palaszczuk Government had allocated $2.2 million over four years to establish support services. 

    “I can announce today that this funding includes $1.588 million over three years to Legal Aid Queensland, in partnership with the Women’s Legal Service, to provide legal assistance services to victims seeking to prevent disclosure of private counselling sessions,” Mrs D’Ath said. 

    “Along with this primary function the funding will also be used to provide education and training to counsellors, the community and the legal profession.

    “We have a duty to do all we can to protect victims of sexual assault, and the Sexual Assault Counselling Privilege ensures victims can get the assistance they need after an assault without fear the information will be used against them in court,” Mrs D’Ath said. 

    “Before the Palaszczuk Government stepped in, private counselling sessions could be called as evidence by an accused person. This often caused further harm to the victim or in some cases, may have prevented victims from getting the help they needed to recover from the trauma of the assault. 

    “A person’s private, psychological and physical boundaries are invaded during a sexual assault, which has long term impacts on victims. Sexual assault counselling services play an integral role in assisting people to recover.

    “This model aims to strike a balance between the right to a fair trial for an accused and the public interest in preserving the confidentiality of counselling communications between a victim of a sexual assault and a counsellor.”

    Sexual Assault Counselling Privilege will work in two ways. Firstly, in preliminary proceedings such as a committal or bail proceeding, there will be no access to protected counselling communications unless the privilege has been waived or lost. 

    Secondly, the laws provide a qualified privilege in other criminal proceedings, including trials, and proceedings under the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012 (Qld). 

    This means that, unless a victim has waived the privilege or it is lost, a person wishing to access a protected counselling communication would need to apply to the court for leave to do so. 

    The privilege will cover communications made to or by a counsellor before or after a sexual assault offence. 

    Mrs D’Ath said the changes, which take effect on 1 December 2017, were an important part of the continued implementation of recommendations in the Not Now, Not Ever report into domestic and family violence. 

    “We are serious about stemming the plague of domestic and sexual violence,” Mrs D’Ath said. 

    “I hope these changes encourage victims of sexual assault not only to seek counselling and the help they need, but to report crimes against them.”

    Media Contact: 0417 675 917