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New laws target graveyard vandals

PEOPLE who damage graves and headstones in Gympie and across the rest of the State 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 damaged or destroyed graves and other memorials.

The new legislation is expected to be introduced into Parliament by the end of the year.

“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 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.

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