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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2000 Week 12 Hansard (5 December) . . Page.. 3713..


CRIMES AMENDMENT BILL 2000 (NO 2)

Debate resumed from 18 October 2000, on motion by Mr Humphries:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR STANHOPE (Leader of the Opposition) (9:53): The Crimes Amendment Bill 2000, which was introduced by the Attorney - General, seeks to make some amendments to the law as it applies to the offence of stalking. I might say at the outset that the Labor Party is supporting the bill. I do not wish to speak at length about the amendments but there are some important aspects of this change in the law that need to be noted.

Stalking is, of course, a quite terrible crime. The offence of stalking is relatively new to the law. I think the first stalk law was implemented only in the last decade or so. The offence, which I think was first created in California, has been adopted by successive Australian jurisdictions during the last 10 years and I believe we have now reached the point where each of the Australian jurisdictions has an offence of stalking similar to that of the ACT.

The offence of stalking is generally accepted to be a phenomenon of obsessive behaviour which leads stalkers to torment and harm their victims. The offence has been a fairly recent innovation of the criminal law and, as a result, it has only recently become the subject of clinical research and social and legal study. Some of the reading I have done explains that stalking is invariably a secret form of behaviour and involves auto - eroticism and the power and control aspects of sexual behaviour.

As I said, stalkers and their victims have been the subject of only quite recent study. Some of the reading that I have done in order to prepare for this debate today gives one some insight into the personality and behaviour of persons now known as stalkers, who perhaps in the past were referred to more often than not as peeping Toms. Almost invariably they are predatory or over - dominant males, and it is quite an extreme emanation of a deviant individual.

Many of us know from media coverage of the quite tragic results of some crimes committed by stalkers or peeping Toms. These people often act as a result of sexual obsession or jealousy and are subject to an adverse range of psychological and pathological conditions. I have no doubt, and I think it is accepted quite generally, that stalkers are often amongst the most dangerous and disturbing social individuals that we have within our community and, as a result, they can be amongst the most frightening of criminals or other people. There is an acceptance of the enormous damage that stalkers can do to their victims. As I have indicated, stalking is predominantly a crime perpetrated against women by overtly jealous or sexually obsessed men.

The amendments that the Attorney proposes in this legislation have been commented on by the scrutiny of bills committee. The committee has raised some quite difficult questions and issues in relation to how to most appropriately legislate in relation to this offence. The committee in effect highlighted how difficult it is sometimes to balance the rights and liberties of offenders or potential offenders against the rights of the people being offended against.


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