Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 11 Hansard (19 October) . . Page.. 3323 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
person has received legal advice from a lawyer acting for the young person or has had a reasonable opportunity to do so.".
The amendments I have made to clause 77 relate to enshrining in legislation, rather than leaving to the goodwill of interviewing police officers, the right of a young person who has committed a crime, or allegedly committed a crime, to access legal advice prior to being interviewed by police about the alleged offence. I have included this amendment on advice from those who represent young offenders in the legal system and who often find these offenders have not been offered the opportunity to access even basic legal advice before they submit to a police interview. I have been advised that young offenders should be able to quickly and cheaply access legal advice through ACT Legal Aid's 24-hour phone hotline. Without this provision, under the new Bill it is quite possible that basically the witness would be another policeman. I am concerned. That is not satisfactory. If that is the case, then at least they should first have had the opportunity to access some form of legal advice.
MR STEFANIAK (Minister for Education) (5.48): The Government has had a look at this and will be opposing it. Clause 77 is very similar to the clause in the Children's Services Act. It has stood the test of time. It has not been there for a huge amount of time. I think these provisions have probably applied for a little over 10 years. At present, we would certainly be saying the young people have all the relevant protection they need.
Ms Tucker's amendment, which we first saw yesterday, would add an extra dimension to it which I do not think would assist in any way. At present a young person under section 67 can have a parent or someone with parental responsibility present, or a relative or indeed, a legal practitioner. Many of them do. Last time I was in private practice, I was rung up a couple of times by clients who had been apprehended. On one occasion it was simply to ask my advice; on the other occasion wanting me to go to the police station. I think this is something that quite clearly occurs.
Having practised law since 1976, I am well aware that most young people know their rights, in Canberra more than most. Young people I deal with, indeed, young people who are classed as at risk whom I see on programs, seem to be very well aware of their rights. Youth centres, to their credit, make available to young persons information in terms of their rights if they are arrested. I think the section we have balances the rights of young people, of police, of society, of victims, of the court process. I do not think that would be served were Ms Tucker's amendment to get up.
Also, it is a bit confusing, in that she wants to put in, at page 33, at line 30, which would be immediately after sub-paragraph (i), her provision which more properly might go in at the end of line 33. I am not sure where she wants to put it. The Government certainly would be opposing this amendment.