Lawyers for a high-profile man accused of rape have until 3 October to seek a non-publication order or see their client named under new laws passed by Queensland parliament on Wednesday.
The new laws, which were a recommendation of the Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce in July 2022, bring Queensland into line with most other states and territories to allow the naming of accused sex offenders after they are charged. Previously, alleged offenders could only be named once they had been committed to stand trial.
The changes mean that accused sex offenders will be treated the same as defendants accused of other crimes.
Reflecting on the laws, the attorney general, Yvette D’Ath, said “rape myths have no place in our society”.
“Rape and sexual assault are some of the most underreported criminal offences in Australia and we want to support victims to come forward and hold perpetrators to account,” she said.
The opposition supported the government’s bill, and shadow attorney general, Tim Nicholls, said there did not seem to have been any “significant negative consequences” in jurisdictions where the accused can be named at an earlier stage.
“Indeed, when we think of other serious offences such as murder and manslaughter where the accused is named almost immediately, along with similar serious offences, the logic of retaining the restriction seems even less tenable,” he said.
The laws, which will be retrospective, will take effect on 3 October after a media guide on the new laws is distributed and they receive assent from the governor.
They are likely to be immediately relevant to the case of a high-profile man accused of raping a woman in Toowoomba in 2021.
The man was charged with two counts of rape in January but is yet to be committed to stand trial.
The man’s lawyer, Rowan King, has already flagged in court that he would probably seek a non-publication order.
King had unsuccessfully sought a one-week adjournment in August to make an application to maintain the suppression of his client’s name due to the bill being before parliament.
The magistrate said King was welcome to file an application but it would not be heard when there were still lots of “maybes” around when the legislation would come into effect.
Under the new laws, the defendant, their alleged victim(s) or the prosecution can apply to the court for a non-publication order.
When deciding such applications, the court must consider various matters including any submissions made or views expressed by or on behalf of the alleged victim.
Accredited media entities will have a right of appearance on any application and the court will take reasonable steps to notify them when an application is made.
In February, media applied for the right to name the high-profile individual in Toowoomba but were refused.
The matter is due for another hearing at Toowoomba magistrates court on 20 September.