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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: Week 8 Hansard (5 August) . . Page.. 3475..

Thursday, 5 August 2004

The Assembly met at 10.30 am.

(Quorum formed.)

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

Crimes (Restorative Justice) Bill 2004

Mr Stanhope, pursuant to notice, presented the bill, its explanatory statement and a Human Rights Act compatibility statement.

Title read by Clerk.

MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Environment and Minister for Community Affairs) (10.32): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

For some time, I and my colleagues have been convinced of the potential of restorative justice practices to make a positive difference in a broader range of cases that enter the criminal justice system than what is now the case in the Australian Capital Territory. Currently, police refer to and provide conferencing through their pre-court diversionary conferencing program. This bill provides for the expansion of restorative justice options for court-based cases, right through to cases that are at the post-sentence and parole stages. This legislation will apply to juvenile and adult offenders.

A review of restorative justice options with a view to expanding their availability in the ACT was an element of the Labor Party's pre-election platform and is a key crime prevention and sentencing strategy of the ACT criminal justice strategic plan 2004-05. This commitment, reflected in this bill, addresses the ACT's disadvantage compared with all other Australian jurisdictions, where a range of restorative justice options are in place servicing a greater proportion of justice system needs.

Research shows high victim satisfaction and extremely high offender satisfaction with restorative justice processes and practices. Community members, besides the immediate offender and victim, also experience high levels of satisfaction. All relevant government and justice sector agencies were represented on the restorative justice subcommittee, which thoroughly considered expert advice and world's best practice to develop an issues paper, released in October 2003. Extensive community consultation followed. The resulting recommendations support the concept of an integrated restorative justice unit.

This bill provides for a small, dedicated restorative justice unit, which will function as a central point for referral, assessment and delivery of conferences. The central unit will enable all justice sector agencies at every stage of the process to be involved, including the courts, the Director of Public Prosecutions and both adult and youth corrections. This will widen systemic awareness of victims' needs, victim-offender interaction and awareness of alternative programs, especially for young offenders.

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