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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 02 Hansard (Tuesday, 2 March 2004) . . Page.. 482 ..

Answer to question on notice

Question No 1180

MR SMYTH: On 12 February I asked Mr Corbell about an overdue answer to question 1180, which was originally directed to the Chief Minister but which was redirected to the health minister. The time that was allocated to the minister to respond to my question expired on 10 January but I have not yet received an answer from the minister. Could he tell me where that answer is?

MR CORBELL: Did the member’s question relate to bushfire counselling?

Mr Smyth: It did.

MR CORBELL: I provided an answer to the member’s question today.

Mr Smyth: Thank you, Minister.

Crimes Amendment Bill 2004 (No 2)

Mr Stanhope, by leave, presented the bill and its explanatory statement.

Title read by Clerk.

MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for the Environment and Minister for Community Affairs) (3.34): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

I apologise as I missed the call this morning. I regret the inconvenience to members. Currently, our legislation makes no real distinction between people entitled to an acquittal on the grounds of mental impairment and people who may have been quite mentally healthy and functioning normally at the time the offence was allegedly committed, but who are found unfit to plead when required to stand trial. The bill that I introduce in the Assembly today will amend provisions in both the Crimes Act 1900 and the Mental Health Treatment and Care Act 1994 to rectify difficulties recently identified concerning issues relating to fitness to plead in criminal trials and the special hearing process established under that legislation.

To fully appreciate these amendments one must understand the system that currently applies when fitness to plead becomes an issue in the prosecution of a criminal charge. Presently, an issue relating to a person’s fitness to plead to a charge is raised in either the Magistrates Court or the Supreme Court. Once raised, the proceedings are adjourned until the question is determined. Assessments of whether people are unfit to stand trial are made by the Mental Health Tribunal.

Pursuant to section 68 of the Mental Health Treatment and Care Act 1994, the tribunal is required to make a determination that a person is unfit to plead to a charge if satisfied that the person’s mental processes are disordered or impaired to the extent that the person is unable to understand the nature of the charge; or to enter a plea to the charge

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