Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 4 Hansard (22 April) . . Page.. 1126 ..
MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General, Minister for Justice and Community Safety and Minister Assisting the Treasurer) (10.40): Mr Speaker, I present the Crimes (Amendment) Bill 1999, together with its explanatory memorandum.
Title read by Clerk.
MR HUMPHRIES: I move:
That this Bill be agreed to in principle.
The Crimes (Amendment) Bill 1999 amends the provisions in Part 11A of the Crimes Act 1900 to give effect to a number of recommendations which were made following a review of mental health legislation. Part 11A of the Crimes Act provides for how the criminal justice system deals with accused people before the Supreme Court who are unfit to plead, accused people who plead not guilty on the grounds of mental illness in Supreme Court proceedings, mentally dysfunctional people who have been convicted of an offence by the Magistrates Court or Supreme Court, and defendants before the Magistrates Court who are mentally dysfunctional.
The Bill amends this Part of the Act to implement a number of recommendations which arose from a review of the Mental Health (Treatment and Care) Act and Part 11A of the Crimes Act. The proposed amendments have been suggested by members of the community and key stakeholders in the criminal justice system to improve the workability, consistency and transparency of the provisions of the Part.
For the information of members, I will explain some of the key changes made by the Bill. The first is that the Bill amends the provisions of the Act which limit the period for which a person dealt with under Part 11A can be detained in custody pursuant to an order of the court. At present the Act provides that where a person is liable to be detained pursuant to a Part 11A order the person cannot be detained for a period exceeding the maximum period of imprisonment which could be imposed if the person were convicted of the offence charged. Examples of where a court can order a person detained are where the person pleads guilty to an offence on the ground of mental illness and is acquitted on this ground and where the person is unfit to plead and is found to have committed the acts constituting the offence charged. Such people may be detained pursuant to a court's order until the Mental Health Tribunal orders otherwise.
The change made by the Bill is to limit the period of any detention to a period no longer than the period for which the person would most likely have been imprisoned had the person been found guilty of the offence with which he or she has been charged if dealt with in normal criminal proceedings. This recognises that offenders who are dealt with in normal criminal proceedings are often sentenced to imprisonment for a term less than the maximum which the court could impose. If a person is to be detained pursuant to a provision of Part 11A of the Act, he or she should not be detained for a period longer than the period of imprisonment which would have been imposed for the relevant offence in normal criminal proceedings. The provisions of the Bill require the court to