Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 1 Hansard (12 December) . . Page.. 119 ..
MR STEFANIAK (continuing):
relation to, I think, an attempted murder case several years ago. The reference appeal was successful, but that did not lead to the desired result.
There are instances where the Crown, in its discretion, might not bother taking an appeal. I could give you an example there, Mr Speaker. I had one such case back in the 1980s. The accused had left the territory for about three or four years, having gone overseas, and came back and surrendered himself to the police. He had a charge outstanding of breaking into a store in Civic. In all the circumstances, it was not a case where, even if he was convicted, a term of imprisonment would have been appropriate.
As it turned out, the record of a conversation he had with a police officer was thrown out as being improperly obtained. There was other evidence there which I argued should have been put to the jury. The learned judge at the time, who has since retired, indicated that he did not think that that was so and he took the case from the jury. Clearly, there was sufficient evidence for the case to be put to a jury. Even though I think the judge was wrong in law, that would have been a situation where, because of other circumstances, it probably would have been a waste of time and money to have an order to review on a matter like that .
But in terms of a more serious case, such as the one I mentioned of attempted murder, it is of great concern to our community to have errors of law leading to wrongful acquittals, just as it is of great concerning to have errors which lead to a wrongful conviction, but our law covers that situation. It does not cover the situation of wrongful acquittals. This bill gets over that. It is about a limited right of appeal by the Crown for wrongful acquittals as a result of an error of law. I commend the bill to the Assembly.
Might I also say that this bill, if passed next year, will not be able to come into force until the federal parliament has enacted the changes it has to enact to enable our Court of Appeal to be fully operative. I do not see that as a problem in that, as I said earlier, the number of cases we are likely to have is very small indeed. I have been advised that the number is in the vicinity of two or three, so it is a mere handful. Nevertheless, these cases are serious for the integrity of the judicial system. To bring us into line with moves that are occurring around Australia, it is important for this Assembly, when it does debate this legislation, to pass it. I think that would send the right messages to the community and is something of which right thinking members of our community would be very supportive. I commend the bill to the Assembly.
Debate (on motion by Mr Stanhope) adjourned to the next sitting.
Assembly-number of members
MS TUCKER(11.23): I move:
That this Assembly requests the Chief Minister to:
(1) undertake discussions with the Commonwealth Minister for Territories on the possibility of amendments to the Australian Capital Territory (Self Government) Act 1988 to devolve to the Assembly the power to determine the number of Members, with the aim of commencing any change to the Assembly at the election scheduled for 2004;