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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 13 Hansard (Tuesday, 16 November 2010) . . Page.. 5391 ..


It is important that the Assembly is aware of the government’s reasons for not only proposing this new defence, but also why it is considered appropriate that it sit within the Criminal Code. I therefore intend to address these points before I outline the provisions of the defence.

The criminal law makes the possession of certain items unlawful. Examples of such items would be: weapons such as knives and unlicensed firearms, stolen goods, drugs of dependence and child pornography. Of course, the law also often provides individuals with a defence which serves to prevent conviction when possession can be legally justified. However, the government has identified an additional need for a defence of lawful possession that applies specifically to those people whose work contributes to the operation of the criminal justice system. This need arises for two reasons.

First, it came to the government’s attention that there were occasions when workers in the criminal justice system were concerned at the lack of specific protection for the occasions on which they were required to be in possession of a prohibited item. I am speaking of people such as prosecutors, court staff, police officers and defence lawyers.

Their concern must be viewed in light of the fact that they would inevitably come in contact with prohibited items on a far more frequent basis than most people. Not only does the government understand their concern but it is firmly of the view that those individuals should be able to act with complete confidence that they are afforded the full protection of the law while they are doing their jobs. The enactment of the proposed defence will provide a level of protection that is specific to a defined set of people and which recognises the role of those involved in criminal cases from the investigation stage through to the conclusion of a prosecution.

The second reason for the proposed defence is the establishment of a new initiative to effectively manage child exploitation material. The Australian National Victim Image Library is a tool to combat online paedophilia that will be managed by CrimTrac. As members will be aware, CrimTrac is a commonwealth government agency which provides information sharing services to support law enforcement services. The main objectives of the Australian National Victim Image Library are to improve law enforcement in this area by aiding the identification of child victims and offenders, and reduce the exposure of investigators to child exploitation material.

The Australian National Victim Image Library will be used by all Australian jurisdictions when fully operational, but the ACT has been chosen to take part in the first phase of the scheme’s rollout. It is imperative that everyone engaged in law enforcement is able to operate and use this important law enforcement tool in the knowledge that they are protected by the law. The new defence is designed to do just that.

The lack of a specific defence in the ACT statute book is particularly important in relation to the possession of child exploitation material, otherwise known as child pornography. The ACT offences in relation to child pornography are found in the


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