Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 13 Hansard (19 November) . .
The intensive correction order draws on facets of existing schemes such as community service work and probation, while introducing new features such as a curfew and a robust breach process. This combination of features will provide the territory with a valuable new sentencing option.
The second major component of this bill is the amendments to the Crimes (Restorative Justice) Act 2004. Restorative justice is a form of justice which empowers victims of crime by giving them a safe forum to express how an offence has affected them and providing an opportunity to address unresolved issues and have a say in what needs to be done to put things right. It provides offenders with an opportunity to accept responsibility for and understand the real impact of their actions and make a commitment to recognise and change unacceptable behaviour. It is entirely voluntary and consensual on the part of both victim and offender.
The amendments proposed by this bill are intended to achieve a staged implementation of phase two of RJ and provide the opportunity for a wider range of victims and offenders to access this form of justice. In 2005 the Crimes (Restorative Justice) Act introduced an innovative model of restorative justice for the ACT and created a statutory framework for a restorative justice scheme in the territory in a phased approach. The first phase was limited to restorative justice for less serious offences committed by young people, excluding sexual offences and offences of domestic violence. The second phase provides for expansion to include all offences and all offenders.
The purpose of these amendments is to introduce a staged approach to the commencement of phase two. The first stage of phase two will expand the scheme to include adult offenders as well as more serious offences for both adults and young offenders but excludes sexual offences and offences of domestic violence. The second stage of phase two will be called phase three and will expand the scheme to include domestic violence and sexual offences.
The decision to take a staged approach to phase two recognises that the expansion of the restorative justice scheme brings new opportunities and challenges. The restorative justice unit, which administers the scheme, is recruiting convenors with the necessary skills and experience and providing specialist training to existing staff.
The commencement of phase three will make domestic violence offenders and sexual offenders eligible to be considered for restorative justice. Due to the nature of these offences, sensitivities will need to be addressed by attaching certain conditions to their eligibility for RJ. Offenders who have committed serious sexual offences or serious domestic violence offences as defined by the bill will only be eligible for restorative justice after entering a plea of guilty or being found guilty by the court. Less serious domestic violence offenders and less serious sexual offenders who have not yet entered a plea or been subject to a finding by the court will only be able to be referred to RJ by the court in exceptional circumstances. In considering whether restorative justice is suitable for a less serious domestic violence offence or a less serious sexual offence, the director-general must be satisfied that exceptional circumstances exist to call a restorative justice conference.
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