Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 7 Hansard (3 July) . . Page.. 2668..
MR CORBELL (continuing):
criminal justice system. This bill is aimed at alleviating some of those fears and ensuring that potential victims are not discouraged from coming forward.
These legislative reforms arise out of recommendations made in the Responding to sexual assault: the challenge of change report, prepared by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Australian Federal Police. The report represented the outcome of the sexual assault response program, which was funded by the ACT government, to look at ways of improving practices and procedures in the ACT criminal justice system as they affect victims of sexual assault offences.
The report contained 105 recommendations to improve the criminal justice response to sexual assault in the ACT. The recommendations in the report not only highlighted the need to amend legislation and procedures affecting the prosecution of sexual assault offences, but were aimed at bringing about a cultural shift in the way sexual assault offences are investigated and prosecuted and the attitudes of key stakeholders within the criminal justice system, including the judiciary, court staff, the police, the DPP and the legal profession.
In response to the report, the ACT government formed the sexual assault response program reference group, consisting of high-level representatives from both government and non-government organisations responsible for service delivery in the area of sexual assault to consider the recommendations and to oversee a process of implementation.
I am pleased to report to the Assembly today that a majority of the recommendations considered by the SARP reference group have either been implemented or are currently undergoing a process of implementation. I take this opportunity on behalf of the government to express my sincere appreciation to the individuals of the SARP reference group for their hard work and efforts in relation to these very important reforms.
I should add that the legislative amendments made in this bill are not only a product of the recommendations in the report and those made by the SARP reference group but also reflect the detailed consultation process undertaken during its development. As a consequence of the collaborative process, additional reforms have been identified, and I will be requesting the SARP reference group to further develop these reforms.
While it is generally accepted that victims of sexual assault offences should be protected from stress, trauma and intimidation often associated with giving evidence, there has been a noticeable failure by legislatures generally to recognise that victims of other violent offences, such as torture, threat to kill, kidnapping and stalking, are also susceptible to mistreatment and re-victimisation in the criminal justice process. The amendments in this bill recognise that victims of certain violent crimes are deserving of protection through the use of special measures to aid the giving of evidence to realign the balance of fairness between victims and alleged offenders.
These reforms will introduce special measures for the giving of evidence by children and adults with an intellectual disability to ensure that the best evidence is given by