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Hannah’s Law: Coercive Control Criminalized in Queensland

Hannah's Law: Coercive Control Legislation Passes in Queensland

On 6 March 2024, Criminal Law (Coercive Control and Affirmative Consent) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2023 was passed by the State Parliament in Queensland, Australia. The landmark legislation, known informally as Hannah’s Law, marks a significant step forward in addressing coercive control

In this article you will learn:

Queensland becomes the second state to pass cutting-edge legislation, slated to come into force in 2025, imposing a maximum jail sentence of 14 years.

Who was Hannah Clarke?

Hannah Clarke was a 31-year-old mother of three who was struggling to break free from her abusive husband, Rowan Baxter, 41. During their marriage, he subjected Hannah to a soul-destroying campaign of coercive control, including acts of psycho-emotional, sexual, and financial abuse. She courageously left the marriage with their children Aaliyah, Laianah, and Trey. 

A domestic violence order was put in place to safeguard Hannah. Nonetheless, in January 2020, the Holland Park Magistrates’ Court ruled in favor of Baxter’s parental rights over Hannah’s human rights and granted him unrestricted access to their children. This decision left Hannah and the children vulnerable to further aggression from Baxter.

In the mediation process, Hannah offered Baxer 165 days of child custody but he demanded a fifty-fifty split or nothing at all. Baxter vehemently opposed Hannah’s efforts to establish a joint custody agreement, utilizing the legal system as a platform to perpetuate his hostility towards her. A week after regaining access to the children, Baxter was charged with violating the domestic violence order.

On 19 February 2020, Baxter perpetrated the ultimate act of coercive control. While Hannah was driving the children to school, Baxter launched a brutal attack, dousing her and the children in gasoline and setting them on fire. Despite bystanders’ attempts to intervene, Baxter prevented them from extinguishing the blaze or rescuing the children—Aaliyah, aged 6, Laianah, aged 4, and Trey, aged 3. Baxter also fatally stabbed himself at the scene. Hannah was rescued from the vehicle by one of the bystanders, but she sustained severe burns covering 97% of her body. She succumbed to her injuries later that evening at Royal Bristand Hospital.

The familicide committed by Baxter traumatized the community that loved Hannah Clarke and her children. The tragedy brought coercive control into focus as it became clear that a universal understanding of the framework would have saved Hannah, Aaliyah, Laianah, and Trey’s lives. 

What is Coercive Control?

Coercive control is a term used to describe the psychological conditioning used to by one person to subjugate another through fear, intimidation, and punishments, such as domestic violence. In other words, coercive control is the context in which domestic violence occurs.

Coercive behaviors include threats, humiliation, and degradation of the person targeted for the abuse. The aim of these acts of dominance is to systematically erode the self-worth of the victim-survivors and render them compliant to the perpetrator. This is accomplished by subjecting them to cycles of abuse, including confusing phases of love bombing and devaluation.

Controlling behaviors are designed to make the recipient of the abuse dependent on the perpetrator by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources, depriving them of the means needed for independence, and regulating their every day behavior.

Some signs of coercive control are:

What is Hannah’s Law? 

Hannah’s Law is the name of the landmark legislation that was passed by the Queensland Government criminalizing coercive control on 6 March 2024. By recognizing the role of coercive control it gives legal status to physical and non-physical forms of intimate partner- and family violence.

The new legislation applies to both current and past relationships, and if convicted, perpetrators could face up to 14 years imprisonment.

Hannah’s Law is named in honor of Hannah Clarke in the same spirit as Jennifer’s Law, which was adopted in Connecticut in honor of Jennifer Dulos.

Hannah’s Law: recognizes:

The law was crafted based on recommendations from the Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce. Though coercive control can occur in a variety of interpersonal relationships, Hannah’s Law focuses on intimate partner violence as coercive control in this context is strongly linked to 97% of femicides. 

Steven Miles, Queensland Premier, described the legislation as a “monumental,” and went on to explain: 

“I am so incredibly proud of this historic legislation. What we know is that coercive control is the most common factor that leads to domestic violence murders. We have made strides to help people identify and report coercive control and we know by criminalizing this offense, even more lives will be saved.”

Shannon Fentiman, the Minister for Health, Mental Health and Minister for Women said:

“This would not have been possible without the fierce advocacy of Sue and Lloyd Clarke, the family of Allison Baden-Clay, and the hundred brave women who shared their stories with  the Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce. We know that non-physical violence is just as dangerous as physical violence. Coercive control is also the biggest predicting factor for intimate partner homicide. That’s why we have taken strong steps to make coercive control an offense in Queensland.”

Collecting Evidence of Coercive Control

Addressing coercive control is a multifaceted challenge, requiring concrete evidence to establish a pattern of abusive behavior. Various types of evidence play a crucial role in legal proceedings related to aggression.

  1. Communication records: Collect text messages, emails, and any other written correspondence that may document threats, intimidation, or attempts to control the victim.
  2. Witness testimonies: Gather statements from friends, family members, colleagues, or other individuals who may have observed the coercive and controlling behavior or its impact on the person.
  3. Incident documentation: Keep logs or diaries detailing specific instances of coercive control, noting dates, times, and details of each incident.
  4. Expert opinions: Get input from psychologists, social workers, or other professionals who can provide insights into the dynamics of the abuse and its impact on the victim.
  5. Victim’s account: Make a record of the recipient of the abuse’s own testimony, documenting the emotional and psychological effects of coercive control on their well-being and sense of autonomy.
  6. Contextual data: Consider the broader context of the relationship, including the history of aggression, power dynamics, and patterns of behavior over time.
  7. Legal documentation: Obtain any relevant court orders, protective orders, or other legal documents related to the coercive and controlling behavior.
  8. Physical evidence: Document any physical injuries or damage resulting from the aggression, such as photographs of bruises or property damage.
  9. Audio or video recordings: If available, gather any recordings that capture incidents of aggression or interactions between the victim and the perpetrator.

Be thorough in gathering any additional evidence or documentation that may support the case or provide context to the coercive control, as it often involves sustained actions that erode the targeted person’s autonomy and freedom over time.

Hannah’s Law is the first step of a comprehensive plan to address family- and intimate partner violence. The legislation is set to be reviewed in 2026, as Queensland continues its efforts to safeguard victims and hold perpetrators of coercive control to account.

How Will Hannah’s Law Impact Victim-Survivors?

Coercive control is an ongoing pattern of abusive behaviors that instill fear and strip away a person’s freedom and independence. Hannah’s Law will help victim-survivors by shifting the focus away from single incidents of domestic violence to recognizing its underlying cause. 

Hannah’s Law will help victim-survivors by: 


In conclusion, the passing of Hannah’s Law in Queensland marks a significant milestone in the ongoing efforts to combat intimate partner- and family violence. Recognizing the insidious nature of coercive control and addressing it as a distinct offense enhances the legal system’s ability to help break the cycle of abuse and protect vulnerable people in our communities.

Hannah’s parents Sue and Lloyd Clarke, remembered their late daughter and grandchildren who lost their lives at the hands of misogynist Rowan Baxter. Sue made the following statement:

“On behalf of Hannah, Aaliyah, Laianah and Trey, we welcome Queensland making a pursuit of justice against coercive control possible. We will continue to speak out until coercive control is criminalized throughout Australia.”

Hannah’s Law offers a more holistic approach to intimate partner- and family violence that is a departure from the ineffective incident-based approach to recognize harmful partners of coercive control. It makes it possible for people to have the most fundamental human right: freedom from fear. 


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