Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 8 Hansard (24 October) . . Page.. 1923 ..
MR CONNOLLY (continuing):
It is a fundamental principle held to by Australian governments and by governments throughout the world that persons who are on remand should be housed separately from persons who have been convicted of offences, and we would all hold to that. However, there are circumstances where it makes sense for persons who have been convicted of an offence to be temporarily held in our Remand Centre, given that the ACT does not have and, regardless of who wins the debate on this, certainly for some years yet will not have a permanent prison.
A situation that arose in 1980 has been referred to by Mr Humphries. A young offender was sent straight into the New South Wales system and, as a result of what appear to be some administrative foul-ups along the way, the papers alerting prison authorities to the young man's psychological condition were not properly attended to and that young person tragically committed suicide in the Goulburn correctional facility. As Mr Humphries says in his introductory remarks, the intention of this Bill is to allow a person to be held at the Remand Centre in the purpose-built special care facility there, which was built through 1991-92, while appropriate arrangements can be made with the New South Wales prison authorities, so that, if we have an offender with a condition that places them at risk, the authorities can be satisfied that that person will be properly sent to New South Wales, and that is a commonsense solution.
Mr Humphries also notes that the practice, which again has been a commonsense practice, of bringing a person from New South Wales, if they are serving a term of imprisonment in New South Wales but are on trial for another matter in the ACT, and holding them in the Remand Centre makes sense but is under a legal cloud. We probably do not have authority to do that at the moment. He also suggests a commonsense solution that, for prisoners who are appealing the fact of conviction, it makes more sense to hold them in the Remand Centre than it would to have them at Goulburn and transferred on a daily basis to and from the ACT while the trial is proceeding or having to put them in Goulburn and bring them back for their appeal to be heard.
For those reasons, the Opposition is prepared to support the Bill. However, there is some risk that these procedures could be abused, and the Opposition was considering some amendments to this Bill that would have, in effect, required the Attorney, after, say, two months, to satisfy himself that the continued detention in the ACT was appropriate. I decided not to proceed with that because it would, in a sense, be another piece of red tape or unnecessary paperwork. However, I hope that the Attorney will keep an eye on this, and I put ACT Corrective Services on notice that, in their annual report and when we get before the Estimates Committee, we will be wanting to see how this process is used. It would be a concern if we saw the Remand Centre at Belconnen becoming a de facto long-term centre for detention. It would be a concern if we saw significant movement, say, in appeals against conviction so that people served out their full sentence at the Belconnen Remand Centre. It is not designed for that, and the principle that you should not mix prisoners on remand with prisoners who have been convicted is an important one.