Legislative Assembly for the ACT: Week 5 Hansard (13 May) . . Page.. 1864..
two years to five years. That is a particularly useful new addition to the criminal law and I certainly commend it to members.
The second important addition is victims' statements. Victims are often the forgotten persons in the criminal justice system. Whilst there have been some advances over the last 15 years, I am still often besieged by victims and regularly getting complaints that they still feel left out, their needs are not taken into account and they are not being listened to. One of the issues Australia-wide which victims have been pushing for and which some jurisdictions are taking up is the ability to be able to read out to a court the victim impact statement. That only occurs after a person is found guilty and has to be done before sentence is passed.
Victims should not be forgotten in the criminal justice system. By the very nature of the system and the way it has evolved over the last 50 or 60 years, everything seems to concentrate on the defendant, especially after the conviction is recorded. Victims-rightly, I think-feel left out. This would allow victims to read out their statement and have their say. They would obviously be cross-examined on it. I must stress that not all victims would want to do this. Some victims would not want to have anything further to do with the system. They would not feel inclined to want to read out their statement and confront the defendant. But some do. Some feel that justice has not been done and that the matter has not been closed until they have had their chance to tell the court of the effect it has had on them and their family. In clause 66 of my bill there is a proposed new section 343 (2A) which implements victim impact statements.
Other matters relating to the Magistrates Court can be found between clauses 70 and 73 on page 23 of my bill. Members will note that in clause 70, proposed new section 375 (1) (b), I have simply combined the 10-year and 14-year offences-assault and robbery and robbery of property take 14 years-into "an offence punishable by imprisonment for not longer than 15 years". If other parts of this bill are accepted, there are increases in the maximum penalties available to courts for a number of middle-ranging and high-ranging offences. That is more consistent than splitting it the way it has been done in the past.
The next clause is clause 71. You might recall that I mentioned the maximum value of property the Magistrates Court can deal with in a crime, apart from a car, is $10,000. Again, in consultation with the Chief Magistrate, I have raised that to $50,000. The value of property has certainly increased in the last 20 years and I think that is far more realistic. You will also note clauses 72 and 73. In clause 72 "2 years nor impose a fine exceeding $5,000"now becomes "5 years nor impose a fine exceeding $10,000". Clause 73 deals with Children's Court matters. The provision is currently "6 months nor impose a fine exceeding $1,000"bringing that up to "2 years nor impose a fine exceeding $5,000". The Children's Court jurisdiction at present has quite a reasonable jurisdiction in terms of imprisoning young people for two years at any rate.
I commend the bill with those further additions to the Assembly. Knowing the nature of the Assembly, I do not necessarily expect a huge amount of support. I note that Mr Stanhope is meant to be bringing in a sentencing bill of his own. I certainly do not have any great problems if we deal with them together when the time comes.
Debate (on motion by Mr Wood ) adjourned to the next sitting.