Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 10 Hansard (24 August) . . Page.. 4083..
MS TUCKER (5.51): I seek leave to move amendments Nos 1 to 8 circulated in my name together.
MS TUCKER: I move amendments Nos 1 to 8 circulated in my name together [see schedule 3 at page 4104].
I have already spoken to these amendments. They are fairly simple; they remove sexual offences and domestic violence offences from the restorative justice scheme at this time. In the bill at the moment these offences would become part of the scheme in phase 2 and I am moving to delete these from the bill because the transition to phase 2 is essentially automatic.
While there are certainly some good arguments for having these offences dealt with using conferencing, there are also serious concerns that indicate that it should be done in a very careful way and probably as part of a broader specialist process. As the statutory Domestic Violence Prevention Council said in its submission to the restorative justice issues paper in relation to adult domestic violence offenders:
Restorative justice approaches should only be used at any stage in a heavily resourced and carefully planned system.
In relation to juvenile offenders, they "would not rule out the use of a diversionary restorative conference subject to careful checking".
We would want to see the specific regulations and guidelines and be assured that appropriate training and/or outside expertise would be brought into conferences to be sure that the processes for domestic violence and sexual offences are right before agreeing to these being part of the program. These amendments are effectively a precautionary approach ensuring that, for phase 2 to begin for these offences, the Assembly would first have to have a careful look at the arrangements and could do so with the benefit of a review of how well the scheme was working so far. Drawing on other broadly restorative models for dealing with these particular types of offences may also indicate particular ways of structuring the conferences or other processes.
It is true that in the bill the government has placed additional restrictions on eligibility for conferences in relation to family violence. An offender must have pleaded guilty. There is a focus in the first instance on young offenders. This is often a particular subgroup where a mother is assaulted by a son, for instance, and has a great deal of reluctance to prosecute the son. There is also the case-by-case assessment of suitability, which looks at power imbalances; it looks at offenders' and victims' motivation for participating and so on.
It also draws in, in clause 33 (1) (a), any specific policy approaches of the government, and these are good as far as they go. However, as I said in the in-principle speech, while there is great potential for use of conferencing for these sorts of offences, as an Assembly I think we have to know what we are agreeing to. We do not at this stage. Therefore by making this bill, at this point, exclude these types of offences, I would