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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 3 Hansard (23 October) . . Page.. 4056 ..



children to give evidence by closed-circuit television rather than face the difficult and disturbing experiences of cross-examination in the courtroom. It is a relief to know that the ACT is among the leaders in protecting the rights of children in this sense.

I am happy to support the Evidence (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill today. It is a bill that, despite its controversial and often quite concerning subject matter, I believe advances the rights of victims of sexual assault under the law. It is important that such stressful and emotionally difficult cases are dealt with in a very considerate manner.


(5.26): The aim of this bill is to make sexual assault trials less of an ordeal for the complainant while keeping the trial fair also for the person accused. It is the first legislative product to come out of the law reform process begun 10 years ago by this Assembly's reference to the then Community Law Reform Committee.

It draws on the responses to that report, to the Model Criminal Code Officers Committee investigation and report on laws of sexual assault, and is modelled on the New South Wales provisions. In the words of a New South Wales sexual assault counsellor, it seems to draw together the best of these models.

The MCCOC have been complimented on their responsive law reform consultation, particularly for the way that the inquiry reshaped its scope to include evidence on the basis of the responses received. I am pleased that the government in the end decided to put off debate on this bill until this sitting. This has allowed community groups who had contributed to its review and to the government response the time to review the results, and has given members a more reasonable length of time to digest the scrutiny of bills committee report and the government's response to it. I am going to apologise in advance because, given this background and the extensive scrutiny of bills committee report, this will not be a brief speech.

The bill's main effects will be to allow adult complainants in sexual assault trials to give their evidence by audiovisual link, as is currently allowed for children; to allow the court to make the decision to close to the public while the complainant is giving evidence; to limit access to counsellors' notes about the complainant entirely from preliminary criminal hearings and to allow their use in criminal hearings only if the court is convinced that the notes contain relevant material that cannot be derived in any other way.

The bill also draws together in the one place, within the Evidence (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, these new rules, along with the rules already in existence which were previously located in the Evidence Act proper. An example of one of the rules brought across is the prohibition on publication of the complainant's identity.

The scrutiny of bills committee raised quite a number of issues for consideration by members. I am satisfied, having considered the arguments, the government response, various submissions, and some of the research work and thinking that has gone into the topic, that this bill is a step forward, and it probably avoids the problem of setting up unfair trials.

I will start with some comments on why there is a need to change the rules of evidence, in this case to facilitate the fair hearing of cases of sexual assault. The vast majority of

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