Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 5 Hansard (1 May) . . Page.. 1290..
MR STEFANIAK (continuing):
I hark back to my days in private practice. I am sorry, this is probably more anecdotal evidence, Ms Tucker. Over the time I practised law, I had a couple of clients who were in custody, but at least they were in the one place, and you could represent them. Unfortunately, both of these two were out for a period of time on a number of offences, and they were difficult to find and to assist. So there may well be some benefits in terms of representation and assisting people with their medical problems and assisting them in rehabilitation for their substance abuse.
I disagree with Mr Stanhope when he says he thinks this bill will have little impact on the level of property crime. Senior police officers stress that bail has been one of the main impediments to the police being able to do their job properly, and concern has been expressed in wide sections of our community. I suspect that we might well see a reasonably significant impact on property crime and see other serious crimes decreasing as a result of this commonsense measure.
Mr Stanhope indicated that the bill does not address the root causes of crime, but he did concede that there are other ways of doing that. Maybe it does not but at least it stops people who are potentially going to reoffend from doing so, and it gives them the potential to perhaps start addressing some of the root problems that they face and that might have led them down the path of a life of crime to start with.
I agree with Mr Stanhope that this bill sends a clear message to our courts that the community wants action. I indicated earlier that the courts themselves have requested that we do something along these lines to assist.
I thank Mr Rugendyke for his support. I agree entirely with what he said, and I am delighted that he is happy with the bill.
I will briefly comment on a couple of points Ms Tucker raised. Ms Tucker sees this bill as a trespass on persons' rights. What about the rights of the community? I think we have to have a balance. Quite clearly, the majority of this Assembly is saying in this instance that the rights of the community are more important than the rights of the alleged offender.
Ms Tucker also made a comment about the bill not being consistent with our fundamental tenet of people being innocent until proven guilty. That has been eloquently answered by my colleagues Mr Stanhope and Mr Moore. If you went through with that argument, it would mean that no-one would ever not be granted bail until such time as their matter was finalised and they were convicted, and then the only time they would perhaps be refused bail would be if they appealed against their conviction. I think you can take that to a ridiculous extreme.
This is a commonsense measure which we have seen in other jurisdictions and which the Law Reform Commission was keen to see implemented as a result of concerns expressed by some members of the judiciary. It is clearly very timely. Our police have been screaming out for it. It will have a not insignificant effect in combating crime. It is something the community clearly want to see this Assembly do. I thank members who are supporting the bill, and again I commend the bill to the Assembly.