Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 09 Hansard (Thursday, 21 August 2008) . . Page.. 3522 ..
correct the bill’s drafting to maintain the integrity of our court system while still allowing protection for victims, which is the government’s commendable aim.
MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Attorney-General, Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (8.31): Amendment No 1 proposed by Dr Foskey is also consequential upon her amendment No 7. As they are related, I will discuss them together now.
This amendment strikes at the heart of the scheme and it is unacceptable to the government. It strikes at the heart of the scheme because basically it opens up again the prospect of a complainant being cross-examined at committal. I am yet to hear any strong, compelling argument about why their evidence needs to be tested in cross-examination more than once. I think that is the issue that Dr Foskey must answer.
It is not that there is not a disclosure, because there is disclosure in the committal process. The committal process will still provide for complete disclosure of the Crown’s case. That is one of the purposes of the committal. But it is not the purpose of the committal, and it has never been the purpose of the committal, for the defence to have two bites of the cherry: to pursue a line of questioning at committal and then to try and draw out inconsistencies which will then be used in the trial process.
That is not the purpose of the committal process. In addition, it is extremely traumatic for the complainant. The government does not accept this change. It strikes at the heart of the scheme. We might as well not do all these other things because it basically means the complainant is subject to cross-examination at the discretion of the court. Quite frankly, it will be a provision that is exercised, in my view, frequently. It is not one that the government is prepared to support for the reasons that I have outlined.
It is also important to remember that cross-examination at committal is done in the absence of a jury; so often the cross-examination is much harsher than it would be in front of the jury because the defence counsel knows that you can test certain propositions in the committal that perhaps would be viewed unfavourably if they were tested in front of a jury. There are a range of reasons why this proposition is not acceptable and the government would simply not be supporting the amendment.
MR STEFANIAK (Ginninderra) (8.34): I wholeheartedly agree with what the attorney has said. In my experience, which is not inconsiderable, that is exactly what has happened in the past in courts and to my knowledge continues to happen.
I do have some sympathy—and I said this to the Council of Civil Liberties—with the idea in some cases of having a robust committal system. But I think we have seen so much injustice to victims in sexual assault cases and, indeed, in some of the serious violence cases that it is unreasonable to expect some poor victim to go through cross-examination rigorously on two or more occasions. The whole point of this legislation and the point of similar legislation interstate is to ensure that there is one real go where an accused can vigorously subject a complainant to cross-examination, but the complainant does not have to go through that two, three, four or five times. I am pleased to see the attorney say this will be used more often than not.