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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 03 Hansard (Thursday, 11 March 2004) . . Page.. 1161 ..

I am also incredibly uncomfortable about the fact that, once again, my office is picking up very simple mistakes in government legislation. I am proud of the work that my office is doing, but it does not give me much confidence in the government’s standard of drafting. The Assembly passes a great deal of machinery legislation and there is a general belief that the technical drafting is correct, comprehensive and thoroughly checked. It does not assist the government’s argument if we continue to see these minor mistakes coming through, especially when the government wants us to deal with legislation quickly. I think it is just more evidence that we need the time to work through these amendments and to work through these pieces of legislation.

Amendments agreed to.

Bill, as a whole, as amended, agreed to.

Crimes Amendment Bill 2004 (No 2)

Debate resumed from 2 March 2004, on motion by Mr Stanhope:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR STEFANIAK (10.02): The opposition will be supporting the Crimes Amendment Bill 2004 (No 2). But before I get into that, let me take up a point raised by Ms Dundas, quite properly, just before we concluded the last bill, the Criminal Code (Theft, Fraud, Bribery and Related Offences) Amendment Bill 2003. In this particular bill, the Scrutiny of Bills Committee pointed out that the explanatory statement didn’t match up with the clauses. I appreciate and support the need for urgency with this piece of legislation, and I commend the government for bringing it on. There was a little sloppiness there, but in this instance the Scrutiny of Bills Committee picked that up. What Ms Dundas says has a lot going for it.

Again, there were some issues with the Crimes amendment Bill 2004 (No 2). It is a very important bill because it deals with a very vexed area. This bill does a couple of things. Firstly, it introduces a system that will ensure that people who may have been quite mentally healthy and functioning normally at the time the offence was allegedly committed can be held criminally responsible for offences allegedly committed. If they develop mental health problems later, they will not be able to escape justice and effectively get off scot-free. That is particularly important when we look at serious crimes. It probably does not matter terribly much if you are talking about things like a PCA or crimes that are at the lower end of the scale. But for serious matters—murder, armed robbery and rape—the community should be absolutely appalled to think that someone can escape justice through deficiencies in fitness to plead laws.

In a very high profile case recently—the case of King—a number of these issues were raised. A number of people have certainly complained to me and to the Attorney and there has been a lot of media interest in the matter. But that is not the only case. There are a number of other cases potentially—perhaps there are others—where these same issues are very important. These issues may well see someone who is quite sane commit a very serious offence—say an armed robbery or murder—but then develop problems. They would be able to use and abuse the system and effectively not be able to be charged

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