Page 2014 - Week 07 - Thursday, 24 June 2021

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Crimes Legislation Amendment Bill 2021

Mr Rattenbury, pursuant to notice, presented the bill, its explanatory statement and a Human Rights Act compatibility statement.

Title read by Clerk.

MR RATTENBURY (Kurrajong—Attorney-General, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Gaming and Minister for Water, Energy and Emissions Reduction)(11.14): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

I am pleased to present the Crimes Legislation Amendment Bill 2021. This bill makes necessary changes to ACT legislation to improve the clarity and effective operation of criminal justice legislation. The bill amends five pieces of legislation to support our efforts to keep vulnerable people safe, to support police in the field, and to ensure that our criminal justice system functions in line with the ACT community’s high expectations.

Firstly, I will detail the amendments that enhance protections for vulnerable people. This bill contains important amendments to the Crimes (Sentencing) Act 2005 to make certain that courts are required to consider family violence as a separate factor in sentencing for a family violence offence.

It is important to note up-front that this is the first of two stages that the government is committed to with respect to family violence sentencing. This first stage establishes the requirement to consider family violence in sentencing, in recognition of how severe family violence offences are. Through these provisions we ensure that courts are able to respond adequately to deter family violence, engage with the need to prevent it and ultimately protect the community.

The second stage of the government’s reforms in this area will be the consideration of a scheme of aggravation for family violence offences, ahead of the government’s bill on a range of family violence issues to be presented later this year. The government is engaging, and will continue to engage, with stakeholders to ensure this will reflect community standards.

In the February 2020 decision of R v UG, the ACT Court of Appeal gave reasons for declining to re-sentence an offender who was convicted of serious offences against his partner and young children. The Court of Appeal held that absent a statutory provision there is no place for a separate sentencing regime that applies to offenders who commit family violence offences, whether it be a more lenient or a more severe sentencing regime. The Court of Appeal also noted that while current section 34(2) of the Crimes (Sentencing) Act specifically requires the court to not reduce a sentence’s severity due to family violence, there is no requirement to increase it.

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