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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 8 Hansard (7 August) . . Page.. 2492 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

Attorney might like to touch on in his remarks in relation to this bill. It is something that has not been explained to me in any of these debates. I am not quite clear why it was that a person could be arrested four times and released four times during Operation Anchorage and the magistrate who presided in each of those four matters did not utilise the provisions of section 22 (1) (c) of the Bail Act. That is something that has continued to confuse me in the context of the debate we are having around these amendments to the Bail Act.

The current bill seeks to extend the application for presumption against bail even further; in fact, in the view of the Labor Party it goes too far. Many people awaiting a hearing on a serious offence are not on bail. In the case of persons issued with a summons or a voluntary agreement to attend court, bail is never required. Some people are not required by the court to enter bail after an appearance before the court. That is because the offender and the offence, even a serious offence, are seen by the court, and perhaps even by the police, as being of a lesser degree of danger than others.

It is highly unlikely that offenders who are a threat to the community and therefore who should be in prison whilst awaiting a trial, or who are perceived by the police or the court in the terms of section 22 (1) (c) of the Bail Act, are likely to reoffend, and therefore the community needs protection against them, will be summonsed or given a voluntary agreement to attend court, or released by the court without bail. If they are, then one has to pose the question why. On what basis did the courts release them without bail or on what basis did the police choose not to seek either bail or incarceration?

Therefore, if such a person commits a serious offence while the first matter is unresolved, this bill would remove the presumption of the right to bail. The first offence has been seen by the authorities, and I think this is the crux of the Labor Party's position on this matter, as being of a lesser degree or the offender is seen as less of a danger than others. The reduced magnitude of the first offence seems to us to put a person charged with a second offence in a different category. It seems to us that you cannot have it both ways: you cannot choose not to proceed and you cannot choose not to seek to oppose bail. You cannot seek to release a person on bail and then come back after the person is charged with a second offence and, basically, pretend or wish that in the first instance you had sought such an order.

The Labor Party's view is that in such a case the first offence should not automatically remove the presumption of the right to bail. That seems to us to be simply unfair. In such a case the court should be free to assess the case for bail on its merits without the additional requirement to determine whether there are special or exceptional circumstances that would justify bail. In the circumstances, the Labor Party will not support this extension of the Bail Act.

MR HARGREAVES (4.15): The reason that the Labor Party did not agree with the last one was based on the fundamental premise that we are talking about a charged offence and we are talking about an accusation of an offence. Neither of the two bills talks about somebody who has been found guilty of an offence and is on bail awaiting sentence, for example. What I had yelled at me across the chamber last time was: "Don't you trust the police?" The answer is that I trust the police implicitly.

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