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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 8 Hansard (26 August) . . Page.. 2469..


MAGISTRATES COURT AMENDMENT BILL (No. 2) 1999

MR HUMPHRIES: (Treasurer, Attorney-General and Minister for Justice and Community Safety) (10.37): Mr Speaker, I present the Magistrates Court Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1999.

Title read by Clerk.

MR HUMPHRIES: Mr Speaker, I move:

That this Bill be agreed to in principle.

The proposed amendments to the Magistrates Court Act 1930 deal with the limitation period under the Act. Presently, section 31 of the Act precludes the commencement of prosecutions from more than 12 months after the commission of certain offences unless another Act makes specific provision for a longer period in which to commence a prosecution. The limitation period of a year applies to offences where the penalty is a pecuniary one or, for a first conviction, a term of imprisonment of less than six months.

Members will recall that amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Dangerous Goods Act were passed by this Assembly recently to allow for the institution of criminal proceedings after the one-year limitation period has expired in circumstances where a coronial inquiry is held. At the time I advised the Assembly that these two Acts were not the only legislation to which the limitation period in the Magistrates Court Act applied. Some examples of the types of offences to which this section of the Act applies include the conducting of a boxing contest without approval under the Boxing Act; setting fire to growing crops, lighting fires in plantations, lighting a fire on an acute fire danger day, all under the Bushfire Act; improper disposal of clinical waste under the Clinical Waste Act; sale of ammunition by a person not licensed in accordance with the Firearms Act 1996; and allowing insanitary conditions to exist contrary to the Public Health Act 1997. It is foreseeable that any one of these activities could be the subject of a coroner's inquest.

This Bill is brought before the Assembly for completeness. This Bill, unlike the amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Dangerous Goods Act, not only allows for a prosecution to be commenced upon the conclusion of a coronial inquiry for a whole range of legislation but also includes the situation where there is an inquiry held by a board of inquiry established under the Inquiries Act or a royal commission.

For example, there could be an intention by the Director of Public Prosecutions or an investigating authority to bring such a prosecution before a court, but where a royal commission, coronial inquiry or inquiry by an Inquiries Act board is held, the investigation and prosecution may be delayed pending the outcome of the coronial inquest, royal commission or the inquiry. The complexity of the issue and the nature of the evidence or information may mean that an extra-judicial inquiry is not completed for some time and that a year or more may elapse since the commission of certain acts that


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