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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 10 Hansard (24 August) . . Page.. 4086..


MR STANHOPE (continuing):

In addition, clause 75 of the bill requires the government to evaluate the first and second years of the operation of the restorative justice scheme; so there will be an opportunity for the efficacy of the scheme to be judged by the Assembly, as well as by the community, and there will, out of that evaluation, of course, be an opportunity for all of us to ensure that issues that may be thrown up, concerns that may be identified, are addressed.

The bill also includes a range of safeguards that were suggested, as I say, by the Domestic Violence Prevention Council. The scheme will not enable perpetrators of domestic violence to hide behind restorative justice. One of the fears often expressed is that offenders will take it as an easy option; they will hide behind it; they will pretend; they will not take the issue seriously; and, through that, will escape an appropriate response by the community or by the criminal justice system in relation to their particular offending behaviour. Nor would restorative justice intervene in a prosecution of domestic violence offences. Restorative justice will be available for these offences only if the offender pleads guilty or is found guilty and only if a restorative justice conference will help to break the silence of abuse rather that continuing it

There has also been a concern-I will respond to this aspect of concern before concluding-about the inclusion within the bill of the potential for domestic violence or sexual offences to be the subject of restorative justice, a concern about whether or not the legislation, to the extent that it is silent on the question of the rehabilitation of sexual offenders, creates in itself a further disability in the operation of the scheme that is arranged through the legislation. I think the response to that is to acknowledge that this is a very flexible system that has been created under the Crimes (Restorative Justice) Bill. Its flexibility, I think, is its great strength and it is through that flexibility that we can respond to many of the concerns being expressed.

It is a result of that flexibility that, as a consequence of the fact that is not a prescriptive scheme, potential responses arising from a restorative justice conference can be tailored specifically to the needs of everybody that is part and parcel of the process of restorative justice. That is all of the participants-the offenders as well as the victims-and that is, of course, the outcome that we are seeking through restorative justice.

Some of the outcomes that might be achieved might very well range from cognitive skills programs to retraining for offenders, such as the right turn program for motor vehicle offenders that is currently operational and is extremely successful. It has been a fantastic program for diverting young serial car thieves from their car thieving behaviour. That has very high levels of success and is a fantastic example of how, through the retraining of offenders, we have turned them away from crime. I have lost my train of thought. Of course, these issues apply in relation to sexual offenders and rehabilitation.

Clause 51 of the bill enables any of the extensive range of offenders programs available in the corrections sector to be included in a conference outcome just as one part of the full suite of systemic responses that are included within this legislation. As I have said, to ensure that we have this very high degree of flexibility and to minimise the restorative justice system's rigidity, we have not been overly prescriptive in relation to the range of


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