Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 1 Hansard (18 February) . . Page.. 109 ..
MR STEFANIAK (continuing):
Having been involved in quite a few jury trials, mainly for the prosecution but even a few for the defence, exemption does depend basically on how the judge feels on the day and quite a few people probably have felt a bit aggrieved by having to sit on a jury when they had a reasonable reason not to do so. Sometimes, of course, they are assisted by the prosecution or the defence simply challenging them or standing them aside, which solves the problem and they do not sit on the jury, but that is a particularly good provision.
A professor, lecturer, schoolmaster or schoolteacher engaged in full-time teaching of organised classes at a university, college or school can still say that they do not want to sit on a jury, but they can if they are called. I do not know whether we want too many academics on juries, but they are entitled to sit there if they want. But if the pressure of their work is such that it would be inconvenient to do so or they cannot, they can claim exemption, as can a practising nurse, including a nurse enrolled under the Nurses Act 1988, which is terribly important,.
We have heard of crises in our hospital system and problems with the recruitment of nurses. Nursing is a crucially important profession. Other crucially important professions are exempt automatically from jury service. Whilst this new clause will enable a nurse who wants to sit on a jury to be able to do so, it gives them for the first time a chance to claim exemption. For a long trial, that might be very important. It might be very inconvenient and difficult for nurses to be sitting on, say, a two or three-week fraud trial in terms of their work commitments and the need for those nurses in the system. Again, that is a sensible improvement.
Exemption will apply to a household officer or member of staff of the Governor-General. The secretary of the Governor-General is exempt but, prior to this amendment, a household officer or member of staff was not exempt. Exemption will not serve any real purpose. There are a number of staff of the Governor-General-I have probably met a few of them-and there is probably no real reason why they should be exempt, although, again, they can claim exemption if they need to.
This amendment increases the gene pool for juries. If you look at part 2.1 you will see a large number of categories of people who are exempt, and exempt for very good reason. That is important just for the proper functioning of our criminal justice system. But this amendment does, in fact, increase the gene pool a bit, yet enable some groups which previously had a problem to be exempt. I think that is one of the highlights of this bill.
There are some other good amendments. For example, the amendments to the Legal Practitioners Act enables trust moneys to be banked as soon as practicable but within five banking days. It used to be one, but the closure of a lot of the banks in suburban areas has caused problems for solicitors in suburban practices. The provision is still reasonably onerous. I would not like it to be more than five days, I think it is crucially important that solicitors are most diligent with their trust accounts.
Virtually all the instances we have of solicitors getting into trouble and being struck off relate to misuse or incompetence in relation to trust accounts. I think that it is crucially important in any practice to attend to and be extra diligent with a trust account, but that amendment is reasonable because it does recognise that it may be quite impossible for a solicitor to bank the moneys within the same day.