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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 5 Hansard (1 May) . . Page.. 1277 ..

Bail Amendment Bill 2001

Debate resumed from 29 March 2001, on motion by Mr Stefaniak:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR STANHOPE (Leader of the Opposition) (11.24): Mr Speaker, the Labor Party has decided, with some reluctance, to support this bill. The Attorney-General introduced the bill on 29 March 2001, which is not all that long ago, and he has not perhaps allowed as much time for consultation as the Labor Party would have liked.

The bill is a problematic piece of legislation, even though I note that the ACT Law Reform Commission has been dealing with the issue and presented a report on the matter in 1998. The commission, in its recommendations, suggested that provisions such as the Attorney has included in this bill should be inserted in the Bail Act. I will deal later with the recommendations and the views of the Law Reform Commission and its round of consultation in relation to the legislation. I will perhaps deal with those in some detail.

As I said, the bill is problematic, even though, as I have said, the ACT Law Reform Commission, after quite serious consideration, acknowledged that the one contentious issue dealt with in this bill, and dealt with in its review of initiatives, is the reversal of the onus in relation to the granting of bail and the circumstances in which bail would be refused to alleged serial repeat offenders.

I think we need to acknowledge that the problem that is being sought to be addressed here-community concern about the activities of alleged serial offenders-does not highlight the fact that the government, through this bill, is ignoring a range of other concerns.

It is important to note in a discussion of this issue that the Bail Act already contains a provision that the person considering the granting of bail must have regard to, among other things, the circumstances in which the offence is alleged to have been committed, the nature and seriousness of the offence and the likelihood of the person committing an offence while released on bail. These are the criteria that must currently be taken account of.

One would have hoped that that provision was sufficient for the police and courts to be able to determine whether an alleged serial or repeat offender should be refused bail, without the need to create a presumption against the right to bail. One suspects that the problem lies not so much with the law but with its administration by those charged with the responsibility for exercising the discretions granted by the law.

The police often state-I think we are all aware of this in terms of the debate we have had here and the concerns of the community harbours in relation to the level of property crime that currently affects Canberra-that a number of repeat offenders are responsible for a large number of the crimes committed in the ACT. It has often been complained to the police that these alleged offenders are released on bail by the courts and continue their criminal ways and their criminal behaviour whilst on bail for other offences.

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