Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 11 Hansard (19 September) . .
Crimes (Food or Drink Spiking) Amendment Bill 2017
Debate resumed from 24 August 2017, on motion by Mr Ramsay:
That this bill be agreed to in principle.
MR HANSON (Murrumbidgee) (11.44): The Canberra Liberals will be supporting this bill, but we will be expressing a note of caution on one aspect as well. Firstly, as to the reasons that we support the legislation, I will go to the Attorney-General's tabling speech. He said:
The new legislation in this bill creates a more comprehensive statute that ... criminalises giving people a substance with the intent to cause harm.
The last part there, "intent to cause harm", is very important, and I will address it in more detail later. But it does identify the shortcoming in the current law that this bill seeks to address.
The bill follows some recent cases which have shown that existing laws can be difficult to apply. Research shows the full extent of the problem; these are, unfortunately, not isolated incidents. The Australian Institute of Criminology report referenced in the explanatory statement to the bill shows an estimated instance of up to 4,000 cases of drink spiking in Australia. Four out of five victims were found to be female, and a third of those cases had been linked to sexual assaults. That is the nature and extent of the problem. Clearly a solution is needed. The Model Criminal Law Officers Committee, part of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General, developed a report that noted a legislative gap and recommended that jurisdictions create the legislation to address this issue. The report recommended a broad approach, and it noted that food or drink spiking can take place in a number of different ways. This bill in large part reflects the recommendations of that report.
The operative clauses create two new categories of offence. The first offence is when a person gives or causes another person to be given food or drink, or causes another person to consume food or drink, and the food or drink contains an intoxicating substance, and the person is not aware that the food or drink contains the intoxicating substance, and the person intends a person to be harmed by the consumption of the food or drink. The second clause is about when the food or drink contains more of an intoxicating substance than the person would reasonably expect it to contain, and the person intends a person to be harmed by the consumption of the food or drink. The maximum penalty for these offences is 500 penalty units, or imprisonment for five years, or both.
The bill also includes some important definitions. "Impair" includes "further impair". "Intoxicating substance" includes any substance that affects a person's senses or understanding. It can be seen by these definitions that the legislation is attempting to capture the many ways that spiking can or may occur, but in each case it must be done with the intent to cause harm.
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