Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 11 Hansard (21 October) . . Page.. 3465..
MR HUMPHRIES (Treasurer, Attorney-General and Minister for Justice and Community Safety) (3.31): Mr Speaker, for the information of members, I present the Government's response to Standing Committee for the Chief Minister's Portfolio Public Accounts Committee Report No. 20 entitled "Review of Auditor-General's Report No. 7, 1998 - Magistrates Court Bail Processes". The report was presented to the Assembly on 1 July 1999. I move:
That the Assembly takes note of the paper.
Mr Speaker, I table the Government's response to Report No. 20 of the Standing Committee for the Chief Minister's Portfolio , "Review of Auditor-General's Report No. 7, 1998 - Magistrates Court Bail Processes". I do not propose to repeat what is in the Government's response, but I just want to briefly summarise its position.
The Auditor-General's report on bail processes in the ACT Magistrates Court identified two key procedural deficiencies. These were procedural deficiencies in recovery of bail which is forfeited where a defendant fails to attend the Magistrates Court as required, and inefficiencies and delays in the process for issuing warrants of apprehension for defendants who fail to attend court in breach of a bail undertaking.
The Auditor-General made a number of suggestions for improving the court's performance in these areas. The Government has already advised the committee that it has responded to the concerns and suggestions of the Auditor-General. Specifically, the Government has acknowledged the procedural shortcomings identified by the Auditor-General; implemented new measures to improve recovery of forfeited bail and ensure the timely issue of warrants of apprehension for persons who fail to appear at court; and undertaken to consider the Auditor-General's report in conjunction with the report on the Bail Act being undertaken by the Law Reform Commission. The Government has clearly taken action to improve procedural arrangements for recovery of forfeited bail.
Nonetheless, the committee has expressed its concerns that "the court's bail processes are rather meaningless" and has made two recommendations. The first is that the Government establish regulatory processes which ensure that, where bail and surety conditions are breached, appropriate bail forfeitures apply. The second recommendation is that the Attorney-General, after 12 months' experience with the procedural changes initiated by the Magistrates Court, following the audit, inform the Assembly of the extent to which those procedures have been beneficial in improving the recovery of forfeited bail monies. As the Government's response indicates, the second recommendation is supported. As to the first of the committee's recommendations, the Government has had some concerns that its wording is somewhat ambiguous.