Corrective Service (No Body No Parole) Amendment Bill 2017

Extract from Hansard – Wednesday 10th August 2017

(Noosa—LNP) (5.57 pm): I rise to speak on the Corrective Services (No Body, No Parole) Amendment Bill 2017. These are important reforms that will strengthen our parole system and support the families of victims of crime. While other states and territories have moved to implement strong parole reforms, the Queensland government has been a little slow to follow that lead. However, public sentiment and the ongoing agony of the victims and families of homicide who have continued to miss out on the emotional relief have brought us these reforms tonight. It is more than timely, and I am very proud to be in a parliament that presents this bill in a bipartisan way to the people of Queensland.

The existence of this bill owes much to the courage and determination of Mrs Fiona Splitt of Cooktown whose husband, Bruce, was murdered in 2012, and I acknowledge Fiona and her family in the gallery tonight. His body has never been recovered even though his killers are behind bars. It takes a special and disconcerting kind of callousness for someone to refuse to disclose the location of a body even after having been convicted of murdering that person. The no-body no-parole provision of this bill is predicated on the hope that making release on parole dependent on cooperating to identify the location of a victim’s body will provide incentive for offenders to assist in recovering the body or the remains of a victim.

In November 2016 the LNP released a policy supporting the no-body no-parole laws in Queensland. Following recommendations from the Sofronoff review into parole, the Palaszczuk Labor government announced its support for no-body no-parole laws in Queensland. In February this year the LNP moved to legislate no-body no-parole laws as an amendment to the bill which adopted the recommendations of the parole review in May this year, which was voted down by the government.

Things have changed since then. Tonight I am glad for the victims and families of missing homicide victims—all of us in this parliament have finally decided that enough is enough and we will get on and do the right thing. Death is always a difficult time for the loved ones of a deceased to come to terms with. It is made even more unnecessarily traumatic by the callous refusal of some perpetrators to reveal where a body lies. All that a victim’s loved ones want is the opportunity to find out where the deceased person spent his or her last moments and to be able to say a final goodbye as part of a dignified funeral service. The unfortunate reality is that in almost every case the victim’s final moments alive would have been far from dignified. The Queensland Parole System Review report made 91 recommendations for the complete reform of Queensland’s parole system, including the introduction of the no-body no-parole policy.

Debate, on motion of Mr Elmes, adjourned.

Mr ELMES (Noosa—LNP) (9.32 pm), continuing: The review report expressly acknowledged that in the case of homicide offences, withholding the location of a victim’s body or remains prolongs the suffering of families and all efforts should be made to attempt to minimise that sorrow.

The report also states—

...’a punishment is lacking in retribution, and the community would be right to feel indignation, if a convicted killer could expect to be released without telling what he did with the body of the victim. The killer’s satisfaction at being released on parole is grotesquely inconsistent with the killer’s knowing of the grief and desolation of the victim’s loved ones’.

I was interested to note that submissions to the committee included those from the Queensland Law Society, the Queensland Council for Civil Liberties and the Bar Association of Queensland, all of whom opposed the bill. I can understand their cautious approach to the proposed changes, but I do not support their opposition.

There may be the risk of a convicted person being disadvantaged by these changes because they do not know where a body is and so cannot reveal the location. On the balance of probabilities, I believe that is a very small risk and one worth taking with this legislation. The rights of victims and their families must take precedence over those of perpetrators.

I also note the proposed amendments from both the opposition and the government to further strengthen this legislation. I congratulate both sides on the work they have done in this regard. These are common-sense reforms which need to be enacted as a matter of priority. They have the potential to bring emotional comfort and a sense of finality for the families and loved ones of homicide victims whose bodies have never been found. They also recognise that parole is not automatic or an entitlement.

A person convicted of homicide or directly related offences cannot possibly be rehabilitated and be ready for release if they have not had the decency to reveal where the body is. The denial of parole for offenders who refuse to disclose he whereabouts of their victim’s body will bring a greater sense of justice to our justice system.