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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 4 Hansard (29 March) . . Page.. 1125 ..

Bail Amendment Bill 2001

Mr Stefaniak, pursuant to notice, presented the bill and its explanatory memorandum.

Title read by Clerk.

MR STEFANIAK (Minister for Education and Attorney-General) (10.42): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

Mr Speaker, this bill amends the Bail Act of 1992 and makes a consequential amendment to the Crimes Act 1900. There are three proposed amendments to the Bail Act. Two of the amendments are procedural in nature: they relate to the definition of "authorised officer" and the issue of arrest warrants for failure to appear in accordance with a bail undertaking.

Firstly, on the definition of "authorised officer", authorised officers are police officers who are entitled to grant bail in certain cases. The current definition of "authorised officer", which requires authorisations to be made in writing by the commissioner of the AFP or a deputy commissioner, is administratively cumbersome. As members would be aware, the commissioner of the AFP is not involved in the everyday operation of ACT community policing functions. That role is performed by the Chief Police Officer, who is the appropriate officer to make the relevant authorisations. Accordingly, it is proposed to remove the references to the commissioner and a deputy commissioner from the definition.

The bill defines an authorised officer as the Chief Police Officer, an officer authorised by the Chief Police Officer in writing and any other officer acting in the capacity of sergeant or superintendent. The addition of sergeants and superintendents ensures that officers of appropriate seniority will be able to grant bail without the express authorisation of the Chief Police Officer, while reducing the need for the authorisation schedule to be constantly updated as police officers are redeployed throughout the territory.

The second amendment to the Bail Act allows courts to issue arrest warrants for people who fail to appear in accordance with their bail undertaking. Currently, the procedure that must be followed in order to obtain an arrest warrant is set out in section 349ZD of the Crimes Act 1900. It applies regardless of the reason the warrant is required and is a time-consuming and resource-intensive procedure that requires the informant to attend court to swear an information on oath and to provide a supporting affidavit.

This procedure may well be justified in other situations for which arrest warrants are sought, for example, where police have been unable to serve a summons. However, people on bail have given a formal undertaking to appear at court at a particular time. It is an offence to fail to comply with this undertaking and it is appropriate to enable the court to issue an arrest warrant in such cases without the documentation required under the Crimes Act provision. As a result of this amendment, a consequential amendment will be made to section 349ZD so that it does not apply to the issue of arrest warrants under the Bail Act. This sensible amendment will take us back to the commonsense situation we had up until 1992.

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