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Support for tough new Queensland laws on cemetery vandalism

Cemetery vandals should be jailed

The Goodna Cemetery Trust is supporting new state laws announced today which crackdown on vandalism in cemeteries.

Secretary of the Goodna Cemetery Trust Cr Paul Tully described the new laws as "much-needed" across Queensland in view of on-going vandalism in local cemeteries.

The 150 year old historic Goodna cemetery was the scene of the destruction of 19 graves involving $100,000 damage last December.

Cr Tully said the incidence of vandalism in cemeteries was increasing mainly at night, making it difficult for police to catch offenders red-handed.

"The courts then tend to give the offenders a slap over the knuckles with a feather.

"These new laws send a clear message to the judiciary that offenders should be jailed for destructive rampages through cemeteries," Cr Tully said.

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This is the full text of today's State Government Media Release:

New law, tougher penalties target graveyard vandalism

Attorney-General and Minister for Industrial Relations

The Honourable Cameron Dick

18/07/2010

New law, tougher penalties target graveyard vandalism

People who damage graves and headstones will face up to seven years in jail as part of a package of legal reforms that will target graveyard vandalism.

Attorney-General Cameron Dick said the package of measures would provide police and prosecutors with the tools needed to take action against people who damage or destroy graves and other memorials.

"Interfering with graves or headstones is appalling and offenders who engage in this sort of insensitive and stupid behaviour will face the full force of these new laws," Mr Dick said.

The package of measures includes:

• increasing the maximum penalty for wilful damage of property such as graves from five years' jail to seven years' jail

• the creation of a new offence of unlawfully interfering with a grave, carrying a maximum penalty of 12 months' jail, in the Summary Offences Act 2005

• removing the need for prosecutors to establish an absence of consent from the grave owner.

"Gravestones have a deep and lasting significance to people's families and their descendants, and should always be treated with dignity and respect, no matter the age of the grave," Mr Dick said.

"However, a recent review of the relevant laws showed that changes were needed to ensure prosecutions against this inexcusable conduct could be properly pursued.

"The increased penalty for wilful damage reflects the seriousness with which the Bligh Government and the community regard this sort of offending behaviour.

"The increased penalty for wilful damage will apply to damage or destruction caused to a cemetery, gravestone, place of worship, or war memorial.

"The government has also decided to create a new offence of unlawfully interfering with a grave, carrying a maximum penalty of 12 months' imprisonment.

"The offence will apply to a person who unlawfully interferes with a grave, vault, niche or memorial, unless the cemetery's authority has approved."

Mr Dick said significant community concern arose in April this year when four people charged with damaging gravestones had charges dismissed over the question of whether the damage had been caused without the owners' consent.

"The proposed amendments have been developed after detailed consideration of the issue by the government and widespread debate in the community," Mr Dick said.

"The increased penalty reflects the seriousness with which the State Government and the community regard such offending behaviour.

"The government recognises that vandalism is a serious issue for our community and condemns all forms of wilful damage.

"The proposed legislation reflects community expectations in how places of remembrance should be respected and why those people who commit serious acts of vandalism should be punished."

Mr Dick said he expected the new legislation to be introduced into Parliament by the end of the year.