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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 3 Hansard (6 March) . . Page.. 603..


Sentencing guidelines

MR STEFANIAK (10.58): I move the motion standing in my name on the notice paper, which reads:

That this Assembly notes:

(1) the falling crime rates in the ACT attributed by the Police in part to reforms made to the Bail Act in 2001;

(2) the stated intention of the Government to wind back the reforms made in 2001 to the Crimes Act to empower the Police to deal effectively with crime;

(3) the Chief Minister's statement over the weekend on sentencing review; and

(4) calls on the Government to introduce Sentencing Guidelines and maintain an uncompromising stance for the protection of ACT citizens.

I speak seriatim to the four points there. Crime is something that concerns everyone in the territory: it is something that concerns everyone in Australia. As someone who has practised in criminal jurisdictions for many years, I have found that one of the most worrying aspects of crime is the effect it has on ordinary citizens and victims. I think it is terribly important that the legislature gets it right in terms of ensuring that the rights of society, the rights of victims and the legitimate rights of criminals are in balance, and work to the betterment of society.

I come to the falling crime rates in the ACT, attributed by the police in part to reforms of the Bail Act in 2001. Back in about October of 2000, I became responsible for police, and I recall asking some senior officers whether they had any concerns about legislative requirements that might cause problems. They indicated problems with our Bail Act of 1992-the presumption in favour of bail, and the fact that repeat offenders, especially, could go back to court, use it like a revolving door and, because of that act, obtain bail no matter how many times they fronted up before their matters were finally dealt with.

Becoming Attorney-General in December, I initiated a process that saw some legislation put to the Assembly, and passed, I might say. Everyone in the Assembly agreed to it except, I think, Ms Tucker, who opposed it. What that did was amend the Bail Act to put in a new section, 9A, to ensure that, with regard to people who were back before the court, having breached their bail by committing further offences, and then having been charged with those further offences, there was a presumption that bail should be refused unless they could show that their circumstances were exceptional.

That was subsequently further refined in August of last year, as a result of a couple of loopholes highlighted by both the Chief Magistrate and the Chief Justice. The second Bail Act, concerning voluntary agreements to attend court, and summonses, was introduced because not every one would necessarily be charged and bailed first time around.

I am delighted with the success of this particular piece of legislation. I think it is worth noting. I quote from an article by Peter Clack in the Canberra Times of 14 October 2001:


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