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Palaszczuk government still grappling with Morcombe reforms

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Seventeen years after the murder of Daniel Morcombe, the government is still dealing with the fallout.

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In answer to a question on notice from the Opposition, new Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman confirmed the government had yet to implement a recommendation arising from the Morcombe coronial inquest in April 2019.

“The recommendation was that the government amend the Criminal Code to ensure a time limit is imposed on the testing of human remains in certain circumstances,” Fentiman said.

While the recommendation had been accepted in-principle, it has proved difficult to implement and the government is now looking at alternatives.

“This is an emotive, sensitive and complex issue which requires the balancing of processes relating to the role of the coroner, the need to release remains as soon as possible to bereaved family members and the criminal process which seeks to ensure a fair trial,” Fentiman said.

“The government agrees that a deceased person’s remains should be returned to their family and loved ones as soon as possible irrespective of whether there are related criminal proceedings on foot, particularly where the identity of a deceased person has been established with a high degree of certainty and is not in dispute. However, this needs to be balanced against a court’s obligation to ensure a fair trial. This fundamental principle seeks to avoid miscarriages of justice and ensure proceedings are conducted in a manner consistent with the fundamental principles of procedural fairness that preserves the interests of justice.”

Fentiman said the government was considering feedback from consultation with government agencies, legal stakeholders, victim and child protection advocate groups, coronial legal services and the judiciary. She said any alternatives were also being considered.

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