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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 8 Hansard (9 August) . . Page.. 2772 ..

MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

through documents. I was on the sideline watching him and the two police officers pouring over these documents on the bonnet of the car and the second half started a bit late. It is not all that easy, simply because of the fact that police often need to contact a magistrate 24 hours a day and, in this instance, I think that there are some other steps that have to be gone through.

Routine fingerprinting and/or photographing are very important as far as the integrity of offender databases is concerned. They also serve an essential policing function, especially given that technological advances have significantly increased the value of fingerprints and photographs as crime-fighting tools. One example there is the improvement in face recognition technology. The AFP has advised that it is not uncommon for suspects to give false names to police and, if routine fingerprinting is carried out, fingerprint records will assist to confirm the true identity of a person who has been convicted of an offence.

Someone mentioned the scrutiny of bills committee. That committee pointed out that there have been cases where it has turned out that a person routinely fingerprinted for a minor offence was wanted in connection with very serious crimes. It is necessary to provide for both fingerprints and photographs because fingerprints can change due to employment or damage, for example, a burn or scar. Likewise, the physical appearance of people changes.

Fingerprinting and photographing are simply not invasive procedures. In terms of 16 and 17-year-olds, the government looked very carefully at doing so, because it did not want to be too intrusive. It was pointed out to the government that 16 and 17-year-olds commit a very significant number of offences in the ACT. According to AFP statistics, in the 2000-01 financial year approximately 8 per cent of the charges, numbering 1,410, were laid against 16 and 17-year-olds and approximately 8 per cent of the offenders apprehended during that year were aged 16 or 17, numbering 705. It is therefore appropriate that, in this context, a 16 or 17-year-old should be treated in the same way as an adult suspect.

That being said, there are certain safeguards being built into this bill. Clause 5 provides that a magistrate's approval is required before material can be taken from a young person who does not appear to understand what is happening to him or her and clause 6 provides that material may only be taken in the presence of a person with parental responsibility for the young person or another suitable person. If it is the latter, police must notify the person with parental responsibility of the action taken.

Clause 8 will enact a new section 84A to ensure that the material taken from juveniles is destroyed if it is no longer relevant to a proceeding or an investigation; for example, if the juvenile is later acquitted of the offence to which the material relates. This section would also allow a magistrate to order the retention of the material if there are special reasons for doing so. There are currently no destruction provisions in the Children and Young People Act. I note the Labor Party does not oppose the remaining clauses dealing with the destruction of material; it merely opposes the clause which relates to a common sense procedure of fingerprinting and photographing.

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