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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 11 Hansard (26 September) . . Page.. 3278 ..

Criminal Code 2002

Mr Stanhope, pursuant to notice, presented the bill and its explanatory memorandum.

Title read by Clerk.

MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Health, Minister for Community Affairs and Minister for Women) (10.58): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

Mr Speaker, with this bill, the ACT will enter into the second stage of the criminal code project. It is a mammoth undertaking that began in September last year with the Criminal Code 2001 Act and, on best estimates, will not be completed until 2006.

The Model Criminal Code Officers Committee, established by the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General more than a decade ago, has prepared over nine reports since its inception. Chapter 2 of the model criminal code dealt with the principles of criminal responsibility and is the model for chapter 2 of this bill. Each successive report released by the Model Criminal Code Officers Committee, MCCOC, has included detailed model legislation designed to operate within the basic framework that will be laid down by chapter 2 of this bill. You might say that chapter 2 is the operating system that provides the basic environment for the rest of the program to run.

We are on a path that will progressively reform the whole of the criminal law of the ACT. A thorough review and, where appropriate, implementation of each of the chapters of the model criminal code is only part of the exercise. The other components of the process will run simultaneously with the first. All new legislation with criminal law implications will be written to conform to the general principles of criminal responsibility in chapter 2 of the bill or, to extend the analogy, written in a language that the chapter 2 operating system understands.

All existing legislation in the ACT statute book will also be reviewed, act by act, regulation by regulation, until all offences and related provisions in the ACT are in a form that is consistent with the code and in language that is as plain as the subject matter will allow. But the undertaking does not stop there. There is still the arduous task of reviewing the common law for any offences that are worthy of inclusion in a statutory form in the code.

Mr Speaker, I said that this is a mammoth undertaking, and indeed it is, but we should not baulk because of the enormous scope of the task ahead. If we do not do it now, when will it be done? We are in the midst of a modern age that is travelling at a pace that many of us do not care to contemplate. Certainly, this brings with it new challenges for dealing with crime, and the code is the best way forward to meet the challenge.

But its advantages extend beyond that. The template of basic principles that it applies to every offence is simply a distillation of the law as it currently exists, but located in a convenient place, comparatively brief and in terms that most of us can understand. The "notwithstandings", "forthwiths" and "hereinbefores" of the past kept the law cloistered and at arms length. By contrast, the code is about accessibility. It is fashioned for

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