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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 8 Hansard (7 August) . . Page.. 2495 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

The fact is that, without the presumption against bail clause, there was an assessment of a number of factors, including the seriousness of the alleged offence, the risk to others in the community and the likelihood of a person reoffending, together with the quality of evidence against the person charged and other matters. Just in case we get the argument today that it is just as well we had this presumption because a certain dangerous person is now in custody after breaching bail, I point out that the basis for refusing bail was there without the recent amendment.

The court responsible can decide that neither imprisonment nor bail is required to ensure the person charged will turn up to their court date and to ensure safety of the community and in those cases can arrange either a voluntary agreement to appear or to dispense with bail. These options are available to reflect the variety which would be found when balancing up all those criteria in the Bail Act and in the circumstances of particular cases and individuals. The proposal to extend this presumption to people who have been judged not to require bail reduces further the discretion to assess each case individually. It requires the court hearing a second charge against such a person to disregard the evidence, throwing out completely the assessment made of the evidence on the first charge.

The problem is that this requirement to disregard the circumstances opens up the system to abuse. That is not to say that in all cases it will be abused, but it is just pointing out that our justice system needs to protect us all from abuse. Someone charged twice will be refused bail regardless of the seriousness and risk, apart from this arbitrary five-year punishment standard. We may feel comfortable that we will not be regarded as suspects because we present as respectable white members of society, but what about the people who do not look like us and who may well be victims of prejudice?

I welcome Labor's position, but both this and the previous presumption against bail have removed the court's discretion to assess each case. Operation Anchorage has identified a number of alleged reoffenders, but that is not a basis for making laws. This kind of provision does nothing to address the causes of crime in our community. This kind of provision is a knee-jerk reaction to a complex social issue. It is a law and order response which is not based on any real analysis of the causes of crime and the issues that are at the root of the anti-social behaviour that we are experiencing in Canberra; that is, mainly it is about people who are addicted to some kind of substance.

On one hand we have the question of what is causing the crime and how we can move to work with the community and support them so that we do not have such a large crime issue. Sweden, interestingly, is often used by people such as Mr Rugendyke and Mr Osborne to support their claims for a law and order response to substance abuse. It is very interesting that in the list of OECD countries Sweden is at the top or very close to the top in terms of the expenditure of public money on social services. We need to look at the implications of that for substance abuse. It is not good enough for legislatures such as ours to say that we are going to fix our crime problem by reducing, in this case, the capacity for there to be an assessment made in each case in terms of bail. This bill is a further mechanism for depriving people of liberty. It goes against the presumption of innocence. It is a major social issue for any parliament to be addressing.

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