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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 10 Hansard (6 December) . . Page.. 2758 ..

MR CONNOLLY (continuing):

The concern that was raised by those people was that there are situations now where comparatively minor matters have to be dealt with as serious indictable offences. Mr Humphries exampled them in his speech. They relate to theft of an amount of property less than $1,000 and vandalism of material less than $1,000. That is a particularly topical one because of the graffiti issue, which is getting so much worse since this Government came to office, as has been pointed out on many occasions by Mr Berry. Much as we would deplore graffiti, I do not think that anybody here would suggest that a 10-, 15-, or 20-year gaol term for spray painting a road sign is appropriate. Perhaps Bill Stefaniak may have at one stage in his tough law and order approach days, but perhaps even he has mellowed. It is far more sensible for minor property damage to be a summary offence, with a smaller penalty unit.

The other classic example is making off without payment, which does happen from time to time when people do the dinner dash. There is one person who is notorious for ordering a meal and a reasonably expensive bottle of wine and then having no money to pay for them. Again, that is the sort of matter that probably should not have a two-year gaol term. Perhaps, when you have done it on 50 occasions, you might be looking at a stiffer penalty.

This is a sensible amendment which produces some greater flexibility for the prosecution to charge people with less serious offences. That can be very important. Look at property damage: Those offences of causing property damage currently relate to quite serious situations where you perhaps put on a train line something which could derail a train and injure people. For a young person to have that on their record can count against them in later years. Creating a lesser offence is of benefit to the person charged, as well as to the system. We will be supporting this Bill.

MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General) (4.36), in reply: I thank members for their support. This will be a sensible way of reducing the cost of our system and potentially preventing people from being tried before juries for minor offences. I welcome the passage of this Bill.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill agreed to in principle.

Leave granted to dispense with the detail stage.

Bill agreed to.

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