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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 1 Hansard (30 April) . . Page.. 203..


Thursday, 30 April 1998

_______________________

MR SPEAKER (Mr Cornwell) took the chair at 10.30 am and asked members to stand in silence and pray or reflect on their responsibilities to the people of the Australian Capital Territory.

VISITORS

MR SPEAKER: I would like to recognise the presence in the gallery of Year 5 students of Duffy Primary School who are here for their local government area of study. Welcome to your Assembly.

MAGISTRATES COURT (AMENDMENT) BILL 1998

MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General, Minister for Justice and Community Safety and Minister Assisting the Treasurer) (10.32): Mr Speaker, I present the Magistrates Court (Amendment) Bill 1998, together with its explanatory memorandum.

Title read by Clerk.

MR HUMPHRIES: Mr Speaker, I move:

That this Bill be agreed to in principle.

This Bill provides for significant reform of the current system of fine enforcement in the ACT. The fine is, of course, a sanction commonly used by our courts. The ACT currently has no fine enforcement mechanisms for fines imposed by courts other than imprisonment. At present the Magistrates Court enforces fines solely through issuing a warrant for the commitment of a defaulter to prison. Such warrants are the enforcement responsibility of the Australian Federal Police. The Supreme Court, in contrast to the Magistrates Court, has no fine enforcement mechanisms and has been unable to enforce the payment of overdue fines. The inefficiency and uncertainty of the present system encourages people to believe that they are able to avoid their obligations. Anecdotal evidence suggests that it is generally this, rather than a lack of capacity to pay, which contributes to substantial nonpayment.

The Auditor-General has recently conducted a performance audit of court imposed fines and has been critical of the present collection procedures. The audit report found that the present collection practices are less than satisfactory, with 53 per cent of fines imposed by the Magistrates Court not collected within the time specified and 30 per cent of those fines remaining uncollected after 12 months. This level of default is occurring despite the


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