Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 6 Hansard (15 June) . . Page.. 1811..
MR STEFANIAK (continuing):
I established a working party on crime legislation earlier this year to develop recommendations to improve the response to crime in the ACT. It was chaired by the Director of the Criminal Law and Justice Group of my department and included representatives from the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Federal Police Association and the Director of Public Prosecutions, together with representatives from my office and that of the Minister for Police and Emergency Services.
The working party did a very good job in a fairly brief time and identified several areas of territory legislation in need of reform. It has recommended legislative amendments so that police and the DPP can perform their law enforcement functions more effectively. I fully support the working party's recommendations, which have been carefully considered by the government in developing this bill. I am confident that the recommendations will go a long way to making our community a safer place.
If we are to be serious about assisting the police and the prosecution authorities in prosecuting crime in the territory, they need to have the legislative tools to do the job. I think we are lucky in this territory in having a police force that is regarded as the best in the country, but it is very hard for them to fulfil their full potential if they have to operate with legislative constraints that effectively mean, in some instances, that they are operating with one hand tied behind their back. I think they need every reasonable support we can give them, and this bill, I think, does that.
The bill is not about making it easier for enforcement authorities to secure convictions at any cost, however. The government's primary concern is to ensure that the guilty are held accountable for their crimes, not the innocent. It serves no-one other than the actual perpetrator if the wrong person is convicted while the guilty party walks free. Accordingly, the bill contains several new provisions intended to ensure that miscarriages of justice can be remedied, and possibly avoided. These measures include a new mechanism for holding inquiries into convictions, a limited right to review acquittals resulting from errors by the trial judge, and enhanced rights and protections for persons suspected of committing summary offences.
Turning now to the detail of the bill, it is divided into 10 parts which amend a range of legislation dealing with criminal law in the territory. Part 1 deals with formal matters, including commencement.
Part 2 of the bill contains three proposed amendments to the Children and Young People Act 1999. The first of these is purely technical in nature and will reduce the administrative burden on the AFP by altering the definition of "authorised officer" so as to minimise the need for formal written instruments of authorisation. The second amendment to this act is linked to an amendment to the Crimes Act of 1900, which I will discuss later, to allow for routine fingerprinting and/or photographing of suspects over the age of 16 who are in lawful custody for an offence. The third amendment ensures that identifying material taken from a young suspect must be destroyed if that young suspect is cleared or no prosecutorial action is taken within a certain time. This will ensure that young suspects are afforded the same protection as older suspects in terms of the destruction of such material.