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The third amendment relates to clarifying some procedural issues in relation to sexual assault, and we are prepared again to support this. It appears to be a sensible issue. There are, I suspect, many more little potential loopholes in relation to sexual assault laws, and that is one reason why the then Labor Government referred the issue of procedure in sexual assault to the Community Law Reform Committee, which I believe is doing some work preparatory to issuing a major discussion paper on sexual assault procedure laws.

The potential loophole that has been detected here is the fact that it is necessary to specify the age the child survivor was when the assault occurred, and it may be difficult to establish when the assault occurred. You could perhaps clearly establish that an assault occurred; a jury could be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the child was assaulted, but may not be able to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the child was assaulted before a particular birthday. A sensible suggestion has been made that we adopt the New South Wales provisions, where it is not essential that you establish the age; that is, it is not essential that a person be shown to be either under 10 or over 10. There are two categories of offence - under 16 and under 10. If you cannot establish that they are under 10 but you can establish that they are under 16, they are caught. In other words, there is no possibility of using that loophole. As far as I am aware, this has never been a loophole that has been exploited. I am unaware of any defendant successfully arguing that technical point and avoiding a prosecution. Mr Humphries might be able to enlighten the Assembly as to whether it has been successfully used. Nonetheless, it is a sensible move to close the loophole, and the Bill has the Opposition's full support. These are three sensible pieces of law reform which the Opposition will support. The Opposition, throughout the life of this Government, will support the Government on sensible, well thought out law reform measures, as these three are.

MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General) (12.06), in reply: I thank Mr Connolly and the Opposition for their support for this Bill. As he indicates, they are sensible and probably overdue reforms to ensure that, in some cases, technical defences are not capable of being mounted against crimes which, to all intents and purposes, have been committed and for which a conviction should be recorded. The question of not having to establish precisely in which jurisdiction a crime occurred is an important one. As Mr Connolly indicates, it is only rarely the case that there is a question of the jurisdiction being in doubt; but it is a matter that can and does happen from time to time and should therefore be dealt with in this way.

The “year and a day” rule is one of those things that law students learn. I suppose that there will have to be changes in the law curriculum at the Australian National University, now that we have abolished this particular provision of our law. Mr Connolly made reference to the question of the provisions that were suggested by the arising of the AIDS debate and whether people should be capable of being prosecuted quickly for deliberately injecting somebody, for example, with a blood-filled syringe containing the AIDS virus. That question is now, as he indicates, able to be canvassed in a calmer debate, and we are, I think, appropriately taking the step today of saying that what really matters is not when a person committed a particular act of assault which led to a particular consequence, namely, death, to a person but, rather, how the medical evidence points up the causal connection between those two events; so, the period of time is relatively immaterial in that whole question.

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