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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 3 Hansard (25 March) . . Page.. 837 ..

MR RUGENDYKE (continuing):

back through the corridors to the cage at the back of the lift and down below ground level into the cells until they are picked up at about 4 o'clock in the afternoon. They cannot have a cigarette all day. At lunchtime they are fed with plastic-wrapped sandwiches and an apple. Mr Speaker, that is how the civil liberties of these people are impacted on by Mr Stanhope's amendments.

I submit that the original Bill already covers a defendant's desire to be personally present in court. The Bill provides that a court may at any time revoke a direction made, either on its own motion or on the application of a party to the proceedings. If a defendant is not a party to the proceedings, I would like to know who is.

Mr Speaker, another aspect that we must look at is the protection of the community from dangerous prisoners. What should we do about the dangerous prisoners with a record of escaping or inflicting injuries on people? Do we want to allow them to insist on appearing before courts when we could negate the public risk by taking evidence from the Remand Centre? What should we do about people who are under the influence of drugs or who are in a mental state which means that they are not capable of making a choice? Should they be able to insist on appearing before the courts? Then, of course, there is the prospect of solicitors and lawyers exploiting this automatic choice to disrupt the process. Mr Speaker, I believe that it is appropriate and fair for the courts to retain the discretion. For that reason, I will be opposing the amendments of Mr Stanhope.

MR HARGREAVES (12.13): I am sad that Mr Rugendyke is opposing these amendments. I must say that, prior to visiting some of the prisons and the Belconnen Remand Centre, I only had your average mug punter's idea of what actually went on there. I was particularly affected by what I saw at the Belconnen Remand Centre. My information is that the holding cells at the Magistrates Court are no better; in fact, probably a little worse. Nobody in their right mind would want anybody to have to suffer those conditions unless they had to. I am the first to applaud the Government for addressing the situation at the Belconnen Remand Centre by removing that sort of Katingal approach to life and fixing up our prison.

However, what we are actually talking about in these amendments is not that people should or should not have one or other of those things applied; we are talking about the right to a choice. The thing that Mr Rugendyke has clearly missed in all of this is the fact that these people on remand have not committed a crime and been adjudged as such by this society. They have not appeared before a magistrate or a judge and had it confirmed that they had actually committed a crime. It is just that the suspicion is significant enough that they have been placed in custody and charged. There is, if you like, a conclusion being reached that a person is on remand because they are a criminal.

Not every person on remand is convicted. Every person on remand is, in fact, entitled to a certain amount of dignity. That is what we are trying to address in the replacement remand centre. But each and every one of them ought to have the freedom of choice. It is about the freedom of choice that Mr Stanhope is talking - the rights that you and I would have to appear before a magistrate. I urge people to have a little read of the wording. Mr Stanhope has said that the court may direct it. He is also saying that the court may not give a direction unless the applicant for bail has consented to it.

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