Justice System’s Response to Sexual Violence Inquiry Begins

The Australian Law Reform (ALRC) has begun its inquiry into the justice system’s response to sexual violence.

Attorney-General, the Honourable Mark Dreyfus KC MP, has referred the inquiry to the ALRC with the aim of strengthening and harmonising sexual assault and consent laws.

The referral asks the ALRC to promote and consider just outcomes for people who have experienced sexual violence, including minimising re-traumatisation.

The inquiry’s terms of reference require the ALRC to examine a range of issues including:

  • Laws and frameworks about evidence, court procedures/processes and jury directions.
  • Laws about consent.
  • Policies, practices, decision-making, and oversight and accountability mechanisms for police and prosecutors.
  • Training and professional development for judges, police, and legal practitioners to enable trauma-informed and culturally safe justice responses.
  • Support and services available to people who have experienced sexual violence, from the period prior to reporting to the period after the conclusion of formal justice system processes.
  • Alternatives to criminal prosecution, including restorative justice, civil claims, compensation schemes, and specialist court approaches.

The ALRC will take a take a trauma-informed, holistic, whole-of-systems, and transformative approach to its inquiry, whilst considering matters raised for reform and detailed in prior reports and inquiries.

The inquiry will consult with relevant stakeholders across Australia, including but not limited to:

  • people who have experienced sexual violence.
  • people and organisations representing population cohorts that are overrepresented in sexual violence statistics.
  • state and territory government and law enforcement agencies.
  • policy and research organisations.
  • community service providers; and
  • the legal profession including prosecution and defence lawyers.

The ALRC has been asked to provide its final report to the Attorney-General by 22 January 2025.

You can find the Terms of Reference for the inquiry here: https://www.alrc.gov.au/inquiry/justice-responses-to-sexual-violence/terms-of-reference/

Further information on the work of the ALRC:  https://www.alrc.gov.au/