Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 2 Hansard (2 March) . . Page.. 485..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
elements of the offence charged. The prosecution is not required to prove the mental elements of the offence. The term "engage in conduct"is inserted. This term is derived from the existing definition of the criminal code and includes only the physical elements of the offence.
The adoption of this phrase also incorporates the inclusion of omissions to ensure that allegations to the commission of offences that rely upon omission as the elements of the offence, such as manslaughter and criminal neglect, that is, the failure to do something, can be dealt with in accordance with the provisions relating to the conduct of special hearings. This was the intended interpretation of the words and is consistent with the introduction of a safeguard to ensure that a person is not detained without some opportunity for some testing of the allegations, as was the case prior to 1994.
Currently, section 317 of the Crimes Act is silent as to whether verdicts that would be available as alternative verdicts in an ordinary trial are available in a special hearing in the Supreme Court. For example, the legislation does not specify that manslaughter is an alternative verdict in a special hearing only on a charge of murder. The bill proposes that this ambiguity be removed to clarify that alternative verdicts are available verdicts in special hearings conducted by the Supreme Court. Alternative verdicts are available in special hearings conducted in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania.
The bill also provides for a range of other minor and technical matters that improve the current system. As I have previously indicated, this bill addresses only those minor amendments identified as requiring urgent attention. There have been a number of criminal cases in the past 12 months that have highlighted some of the difficulties being experienced with the current system of interaction between the criminal justice and mental health systems. These issues are complex. I announced a review of this legislation late last year. That review is progressing well.
The bill strikes a more appropriate balance between the public interest and that of an offender. Offenders will be liable to be held criminally responsible for crimes they committed whilst mentally healthy when, and if, they recover from the mental dysfunction or illness that has subsequently developed and prevented their trial. It upholds the legal principles that underpin our legal system and expresses community expectations by providing greater clarity and removing ambiguity. I commend the bill to the Assembly.
Debate (on motion by Mr Smyth ) adjourned to the next sitting.
Discussion of matter of public importance
MR SPEAKER: I have received a letter from Mr Smyth proposing that a matter of public importance be submitted to the Assembly for discussion, namely:
The Canberra hospital.
MR SMYTH (Leader of the Opposition) (3.44): Canberra residents would be well aware of the existence of Canberra hospital-their major trauma centre, their major hospital and the place that they look to when they need assistance in an emergency or after hours