Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2014 Week 10 Hansard (23 September) . .
In the Eastman inquiry matter, the Supreme Court interpreted this section as only applying to the question of whether a report should be published. Importantly, it did not apply to any other Supreme Court function in relation to an inquiry.
The bill makes an amendment to clarify the act and supports the interpretation of the Supreme Court. It will repeal section 431, which is not necessary for the inquiry process. As Minister Corbell pointed out in his tabling speech, the provision was drafted in the spirit of limiting the possibilities for endless litigation, but the Supreme Court's recent decision in the Eastman inquiry means that this is of limited effect.
The amendment in the bill resolves any confusion and prevents future arguments which might frustrate the court's independent consideration of the Eastman report and future inquiry reports. The amendment supports the interpretation already made by the Supreme Court and clarifies the process. I am happy to support the bill today.
MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Attorney-General, Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Minister for the Environment and Minister for Capital Metro) (10.17), in reply: I thank members for their support of this bill today. The amendments in the bill are designed to address a specific technical issue with the operation of section 431 of the Crimes Act. While this issue was identified in the course of the Eastman inquiry, the amendment needs to be made for the benefit of the inquiry process more generally. Specifically, the bill repeals section 431 to clarify the judicial nature of the Supreme Court when it considers a report of an inquiry. It also ensures that there are no unnecessary limitations on the court's ability to consider matters, take evidence and hear submissions on the report.
Problems with the operation of section 431 were identified, as members have mentioned, in the recent inquiry into Mr David Eastman's conviction for the murder of Assistant Commissioner Colin Winchester. Acting Justice Martin's inquiry report into Mr Eastman's conviction was the first report delivered for consideration under the Crimes Act provisions.
During proceedings on the inquiry's report, the Supreme Court considered the effect of section 431, whether it applied to some provisions of the Crimes Act and not others, and questions of procedural fairness. As it is currently drafted, section 431 provides that a proceeding to which that section applies is not a judicial proceeding, and that the Supreme Court must not hear submissions in certain circumstances.
During its consideration of the Eastman inquiry report, the court found that section 431 applied only to the question of whether a report should be published. It did not apply to any other Supreme Court function in relation to an inquiry. In particular, it did not apply to the Supreme Court's function of deciding whether to quash a conviction. Accordingly, the court considered that it could receive submissions in considering its decision in response to the Eastman inquiry report. It also concluded that its proceedings are judicial in character.
In light of the Supreme Court's decision in the Eastman inquiry, the repeal of section 431 is necessary to bring the meaning of the statute as expressed on its face into line
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