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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 13 Hansard (Tuesday, 16 November 2010) . . Page.. 5389 ..


subsequently charged for possession of child pornography. Due to the specific nature of the crime under investigation, the police officer would not be able to claim the defence that he had no reasonable grounds to suspect that the material on the computer was child pornography. This is because the police officer had seized the computer because he believed the material contained on it was child pornography. This is a very precarious situation for police officers, and this bill seeks to rectify that situation.

There are three bases on which a person can claim the defence of possession of prohibited material or item. Firstly, it must be associated with the person’s work in the law enforcement or justice agency, the person must be providing technical, professional or expert services to a law enforcement or justice agency, or the person must be in legal practice or providing technical, professional or expert services to a legal practitioner.

Secondly, the person must be in possession of a law enforcement purpose, and this is described as enforcing a law, monitoring compliance with a law, investigating a contravention or administering justice. Thirdly, the person must be able to show the court that it is reasonable in the circumstances of the person’s work as outlined above to possess the prohibited material.

This bill provides more certainty to people working in our criminal justice system and will enable them to do their work without fear that their work might be hampered by legal loopholes. I thank the attorney for bringing this bill to the Assembly, and we are pleased to support it.

MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (10.08): The Greens will be supporting the Criminal Code Amendment Bill. The bill will give certainty to people employed in law enforcement or in justice agencies. By the nature of their jobs, people working in the areas will come into contact with illegal material. The changes will allow them to go about their job free from the prospect of being criminally prosecuted for possession of that illegal material.

The attorney has outlined previously that employees in these areas have concerns that, through their job, they are required to have possession of illegal material. Examples are the lawyer who is required to save child pornography onto their computer because it is evidence in a court trial, or the drug lab technician who takes possession of illicit drugs in order to analyse it.

The point is that these people are going about their jobs, carrying out duties they are required to do, sometimes required by law, yet technically they are committing an offence. While prosecutions for such offences are rare—indeed, my office are unaware if there ever has been such a prosecution—these people do still deserve the protection of the law and the clarity and peace of mind. But also, it is equally appropriate that law enforcement officers who retain possession of illegal material past the point where it is required for their job do not have the protection of the defence. This is an important point of policy, and the Greens support the clarity provided by the bill.


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