Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 02 Hansard (Wednesday, 10 February 2021) . . Page.. 359 ..
The bill also includes amendments to extend the expiry date for measures in the Family Violence Act and the Personal Violence Act. These measures extend general interim orders that are due, or likely, to expire during the pandemic, for up to six months; allow appearances at a proceeding to be undertaken by audiovisual means during the pandemic; allow consent to be given by audiovisual means during the pandemic; and allow an acknowledgement to be given in writing or before the court, and to be recorded by the court, during the pandemic. These measures are due to expire on 8 April. The bill will extend the expiry date of these measures, to expire 12 months after a COVID-19 declaration ends. These amendments will continue to support court operations and access to justice by allowing the court to reduce the number of people at the court, where possible, to maintain safe practices.
The COVID-19 measure in section 68B of the Supreme Court Act allows a person accused of committing an offence that is normally able to be tried only by jury, to elect to be tried by a judge alone during the “COVID-19 emergency period”. In the act, the “COVID-19 emergency period” was defined to end on 31 December 2020 but could be extended by regulation. The COVID-19 emergency period was extended by regulation until 31 March 2021. The bill includes an amendment to the definition of “COVID-19 emergency period” to end on 30 June 2021. The amendment will prolong the availability of this measure to assist in reducing the risk of COVID-19 impacts on court listing arrangements. A factor relevant to continuing this measure is the impact of physical distancing requirements in the courts, which means that each jury trial requires the use of two courtrooms. This has the potential to result in delays in trials and the consequent delay to affording justice to both the accused and the victim. Extending this measure until 30 June will continue to provide for the option of judge-alone trials to reduce this risk.
The bill includes amendments to extend the expiry date of a number of COVID-19 measures in the Retirement Villages Act, which ensure that meetings of residents of retirement villages and meetings with retirement village operators can continue to be held during the pandemic. These measures are due to expire on 8 April 2021 and will be extended to 12 months after a COVID-19 emergency.
The expiry period of two COVID-19 measures in the Retirement Villages Act will not be extended and will expire on 8 April 2021 because these measures will not be needed past this point, including because operators have put in place alternative ways of meeting their obligations in relation to certain requirements under the act.
Finally, the bill includes a minor technical amendment to the Gaming Machine Regulation, as I alluded to earlier.
Madam Speaker, I would like to conclude by reiterating that the amendments in this bill relating to legislation in my portfolio are necessary to support the ACT government’s continuing commitment to serve the people of Canberra and to ensure that they continue to have effective access to the justice system in a safe way. I commend the bill to the Assembly.