Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2012 Week 7 Hansard (5 June) . . Page.. 2583..
The government's Crimes Legislation Amendment Bill seeks to modify the defence available under self-defence when a person uses force to resist arrest. It also requires judges to take a person's occupation into account during the sentencing process if the person's occupation exposes them to higher levels of risk of assault.
The private member's bill, Crimes (Offences Against Police) Amendment Bill, seeks to create aggravated assault offences in the Criminal Code 1990 where there are assaults and other offences against police. The bill uses a similar provision to that introduced in relation to aggravated offences against pregnant women.
The committee report recommends that both bills not be supported. However, I have included dissenting comments in relation to the Crimes (Offences Against Police) Amendment Bill, because I think that this bill is worthy of support.
For the first bill we received an impressive array of representations from the law community about the unfortunate consequences for the state of law in the ACT if this bill were to be introduced. It became quite clear to the committee after hearing these contributions that the defence of self-defence, although rarely used in court, is integral to our legal heritage, that this legal heritage goes back to the Magna Carta and that at the very least it would be a very bad precedent to remove these provisions.
I need to put on the record my dissatisfaction with the approach of the government to this. This committee report was called for by the Assembly in February, and the committee held a series of hearings in April in relation to this, but it was only on the day of the hearings that the committee received the government's submission to that investigation. For the record, there was a motion passed on 23 February referring these bills to the justice and community safety committee. I spoke adversely to the attorney in the hearings about the tardy response of the government to this inquiry. It makes it very difficult for committee members to ask insightful questions when you only get the government's submission that you are supposed to be asking the questions about when the government is essentially sitting down at the table.
The government's submission dwelt on the jurisprudence that would support the approach that the government is taking and I asked a number of questions of the government in relation to why the government was relying on cases from individual states within the United States, not the United States Supreme Court, and why it had not relied on jurisprudence in a number of common law countries. I asked, on behalf of the committee, for some answers to questions about whether there was other jurisprudence closer to home than, say, the individual states in the United States.
Members of the committee put a number of questions on notice, most of which have not been answered, and this is addressed in the committee report as well. This is a most unsatisfactory and disrespectful approach to the committee from the Attorney-General and I think the Attorney-General has some explaining to do about why he would treat the committee in this way.
However, the ACT Bar Association was much more helpful to the committee in relation to the issue of jurisprudence than was the government. Members of the Bar