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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 10 Hansard (Tuesday, 18 September 2018) . . Page.. 3671 ..

An offender could plead not guilty for technical reasons but could still take responsibility for the harm that they caused.

If someone is taking responsibility for part of an offence they are able to gain insight and respond to a victim of crime’s need.

There are a number of social aspects to consider as well with this bill. Young offenders, in particular, can be intimidated by or mistrustful of traditional justice measures. But the most important aspect that this change makes is that the program now makes it more available to more people. Given we have seen by and large that in the right circumstances this provides good outcomes, then we support that change. I know that this is of particular interest and concern to my colleague Mrs Kikkert, and I believe that she will be making some comments on this bill as well.

In conclusion, the Canberra Liberals support this bill for the improvements the bill makes and reiterate our support for the principle of the restorative justice program.

MRS KIKKERT (Ginninderra) (12.02): I rise today to briefly address the amendment bill under debate. This proposed legislation seeks to improve access to restorative justice in the ACT. Whilst the restorative justice scheme focuses primarily on meeting the needs of victims of crime, it is acknowledged that offenders may also benefit from participation in the scheme.

This bill includes provisions that specifically target young offenders, in an attempt to engage more of them in restorative justice. In particular, it shifts the threshold for young offenders who have committed what is defined as a less serious offence to be referred for restorative justice. Under current legislation all offenders so referred must accept responsibility for the commission of the offence.

This bill proposes that young offenders be deemed eligible as long as they do not deny responsibility for the commission of the offence. This seems like a very small change in both wording and meaning, but it attempts to acknowledge that acceptance of responsibility is a subjective test and that a number of young people may not present as accepting responsibility at the point of apprehension by police, potentially creating unnecessary barriers to restorative justice. Of course, it remains to be seen whether or not this amendment will have its intended outcome. It is, however, worth the attempt.

One of the stated purposes for this proposed change in eligibility is to increase the possibility for referrals for young people to be made in diversions from the criminal justice system. In light of known complications with this territory’s youth detention centre in particular, this would, in my opinion, be a very good thing.

I have stood many times before in this chamber to raise concerns about this government’s management of the Bimberi youth detention centre. Many of the concerns that I, the Canberra Liberals, the Human Rights Commissioner and others have raised have a long history stretching back to the old Quamby detention centre. But they continue causing trouble in our current detention facility. Some of these systemic problems include concerns over human rights compliance, low staff morale, the resulting high number of staff turnover and issues with understaffing.

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