Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 05 Hansard (Thursday, 24 August 1995) . . Page.. 1417 ..
I also present the supplementary explanatory memorandum.
Amendment agreed to.
Bill, as a whole, as amended, agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC PROSECUTIONS (AMENDMENT) BILL 1995
Debate resumed from 11 May 1995, on motion by Mr Humphries:
That this Bill be agreed to in principle.
MR CONNOLLY (12.01): Mr Speaker, the Opposition will be supporting this Bill, but only after quite a bit of consideration. Mr Humphries’s response to some issues that I raised with him in correspondence reassured me somewhat, but this is an issue that we may well want to come back to in this Assembly and revisit. The principle of the legislation is fine and supportable. Indeed, it is something which was put in train under the Labor Government. The DPP is the person charged with making the often controversial decision to proceed or not proceed with a prosecution. We were concerned when we were in office that sometimes the decision of a director not to proceed with a prosecution would cause a lot of pain and concern to the victims of the crime in respect of which prosecution was not proceeded with, and we encouraged the director to explain to the victims of the crime or to the public at large why the decision had been made. Indeed, one of the aspects of the charter in the victims of crime package that was put through the Assembly late last year, when that is finally implemented by the current administration, will make it mandatory that victims be informed of these types of decisions.
There have been situations where a decision not to prosecute has been made at late notice because of quite compelling material before the director indicating perhaps that a key witness had been involved in perjury proceedings. There may be quite compelling reasons why it is not sound to proceed with the prosecution. The difficulty is that if that decision is not taken on the floor of the court and the director explains, “I am not proceeding because the key witness is, in my considered opinion, a perjurer and unreliable”, that is defamatory. The only protection for the director would be to wait until the indictment is presented in the court and then say in the court, “We are withdrawing this indictment because we have reason to believe that a key witness is a perjurer”. I again take that extreme example. That would clearly be unfair and put the defendant to unnecessary cost and inconvenience. So it makes sense to provide a form of protection to the Director of Public Prosecutions to explain to the families of the victim, to the victim, to the world at large why a particular prosecution is not proceeding.