Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 14 Hansard (11 December) . . Page.. 5216 ..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
In general terms, the proposed new chapter 3 offences are similar to the current law and operate on principles that are already familiar to ACT practitioners and the ACT community generally. But, in addition to codifying the law on these matters, the bill will also achieve a number of important improvements. I will refer to these improvements as I outline the various parts of the bill.
Part 3.2 of new chapter 3 of the bill contains modern codified offences on theft and related crimes, including robbery, burglary, receiving, making off without payment and taking motor vehicles without consent. The Crimes Act equivalents of these offences are based on the 1968 UK Theft Act and since the Model Criminal Code Officers Committee used that act as the basis for its model offences on theft, fraud and forgery, it is not surprising that the offences in this part of the bill largely replicate the current state of the law in the ACT. In particular, the offences continue to make use of the fault element of "dishonesty"which lies at the heart of the Theft Act regime on theft and fraud.
However, in keeping with the code approach of transparency in the criminal law, the bill includes a definition of "dishonesty", which the Crimes Act does not have. There are also some other important changes in the part. Most notably, under the Crimes Act, obtaining property by deception-property fraud-is not a separate offence but is dealt with as stealing. This can give rise to problems of considerable complexity in cases where a person fraudulently obtains property without the owner's consent. Under this bill, property fraud will be dealt with under a new and separate offence, thereby reinstating a distinction that is commonly understood by the community at large.
Other improvements in part 3.2 include some sensible extensions to the robbery and burglary offences to close some technical gaps that perpetrators may exploit. Robbery will now apply to cases where a person uses force or threats immediately after the theft as well as just before or during the theft. This will avoid unnecessary hair-splitting about whether the offence applies depending on the precise time that the force or threats were used.
Similarly, burglary has been extended to apply to cases where a person remains in a building to commit theft-such as where a person hides in a shop until after it is closed-as well as entering a building to commit a theft. The burglary offence has also been simplified by drawing a clearer line between it and theft in cases where a person enters a building by consent. Similarly, the traditionally complex offence of receiving stolen property has also been simplified by removing categories of the offence that are more properly covered by the offences on complicity and accessory after the fact.
Part 3.3 of chapter 3 of the bill will rationalise the ACT law on fraud and eliminate many unnecessary complexities. For example, the bill replaces three Crimes Act offences on financial fraud with one simplified offence that covers the same ground. Also, as I have already indicated, the part will include a new and separate offence to deal with property fraud.
Perhaps the more important reform in this part is the proposed offence of conspiracy to defraud. Although this will be new for the ACT, conspiracy to defraud offences have been an established part of the criminal law for over 200 years and currently apply in all other Australian jurisdictions. The conspiracy to defraud offence will provide an