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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (8 December) . . Page.. 3295 ..



Debate resumed from 26 November 1998, on motion by Mr Humphries:

That this Bill be agreed to in principle.

MR DEPUTY SPEAKER: Is it the wish of the Assembly to debate this order of the day concurrently with order of the day No. 6, Custodial Escorts (Consequential Provisions) Bill 1998? There being no objection, that course will be followed. I remind members that in debating order of the day No. 5 they may also address their remarks to order of the day No. 6.

MR STANHOPE (Leader of the Opposition) (9.42): Mr Deputy Speaker, this legislation is a matter of housekeeping, to some extent, but with some significant changes to the escorting of prisoners and detainees. The Custodial Escorts Bill provides for the appointment of escort officers - referred to in the Bill as "escorts", and not to be confused with others. The duties of escorts are to take custody from the police of arrested persons for the purpose of taking them to court; to take responsibility for the custody, welfare and behaviour of those persons during proceedings; and to escort detainees and prisoners to and from the courts, the Belconnen Remand Centre, Quamby and other places in the Territory and interstate.

Escort officers are authorised to use necessary and reasonable force to maintain the security of those escorted and to search them. The police have been responsible for these duties. We are advised that it is the Government's policy to transfer the work to custodial officers and to release the police for their core work of prevention and detection of crime.

The Bill gives legislative effect to an arrangement that is already in place. We understand that, since early this year, custodial officers have been escorting prisoners under authority given to them by appointment as special members of the AFP. These appointments actually expire at the end of the month. The Bill provides for the appointment of escort officers and removes the need for appointment as AFP members. It is intended that for some prisoners the escort officers will be armed. Under the present arrangements, custodial officers do not carry arms, although they are licensed to do so.

The Custodial Escorts (Consequential Provisions) Bill amends a number of Acts to reflect the introduction of escort officers. There are two amendments that I do think warrant comment. The first is clause 17, which amends section 21 of the Firearms Act to allow a firearms licence to be issued to a person who has a reason to use a firearm in the lawful course of business or employment in the Territory. The amendment will have a wider application than just for custodial officers. It will extend to others, including workers in the private security industry. These applicants will still have to satisfy the usual requirements, such as character, training, training in the use of firearms and demonstrating a genuine work-related reason for a licence.

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