Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 9 Hansard (22 August) . . Page.. 3126..
MR RUGENDYKE (continuing):
The explanatory memorandum outlines the thrust of the bill. In any proceedings before a court, a party is entitled to call evidence that is relevant to the matters the court has to decide on. If someone who was not involved in the proceedings has information that is considered relevant, they can be compelled to produce this information or attend court to give evidence in person.
In recent years it has become commonplace for defence lawyers in sexual assault trials to issue subpoenas against sexual assault counsellors. Counsellors' notes are confidential records of the therapeutic process and not an investigative one. Counsellors have pointed out that complainants of sexual assault expressed feelings of guilt or doubt as to whether they were to blame in some way. These expressions can reflect a common psychological reaction to what has occurred and do not mean the complainant was not sexually assaulted. It is potentially misleading for the defence to rely upon them as evidence of consent.
The New South Wales government recognised that counsellors' notes required protection in 1998 by introducing legislation aimed at restricting the right of a party to legal proceedings from issuing a subpoena for counsellors' notes.
This bill establishes similar provisions by establishing a sexual assault communications privilege. The intent is to create a presumption that a person cannot be compelled to produce details of a protected confidence to court, and that such a confidence cannot be used in evidence unless the court is satisfied that the evidence will have substantive probative value.
Mr Speaker, I commend the bill to the Assembly.
Debate (on motion by Mr Moore ) adjourned to the next sitting.
Crimes Amendment Bill 2001
Debate resumed from 9 August 2001, on motion by Mr Osborne:
That this bill be agreed to in principle.
MR WOOD (11.04): Mr Speaker, in principle, steps ought to be taken to protect people who may suffer harassment or other abuse through electronic means. In practice, it is a little more difficult, and that has been well pointed out.
Ms Follett, when she was Chief Minister, introduced stalking legislation into the ACT. Those measures covered stalking via the telephone or mail. So it is logical to extend that coverage to systems like email, the Internet and general computer usage. It is a logical consequence. It must have been about 10 years ago now that those measures were introduced, and a vast amount of progress-if you call it that-has been made in technology since that time. So we certainly support the principle.
It is a matter of some debate in Australia and around the world how you control it. This is a little bit more difficult. You can have stalking via email, via the Internet or by taking over someone's computer. It becomes very difficult then to manage prosecution. Indeed,