Page 220 - Week 01 - Thursday, 9 December 2004

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I also believe that applying the rules of evidence to fitness to plead issues and allowing both the defence and the prosecution a greater scope of core witnesses will be of benefit to all involved. The fact that it takes place in open court enables the whole community to see for itself that the evidence is fairly tested and considered. It is important to note that under the bill the question of fitness to plead is a question of fact that is to be decided on the balance of probabilities, not on the criminal law standard of beyond reasonable doubt.

I agree that over the last 10 years the judiciary may not have had the opportunity to experience or consider all of the issues surrounding fitness to plead matters. However, rather than continuing the fragmentation of criminal justice, we should take a lead and enable the courts to build upon their experience. I believe that most of our community has confidence in the impartiality of our magistrates and judges. The judiciary’s impartiality is there for all to see because the trial process is open and the judiciary has demonstrated its strength to judge impartially.

I thank those community organisations which discussed these issues with officers of my department. I thank them for honest and engaging discussion. I also thank the Minister for Health and his department for their counsel and assistance in relation to this issue.

This bill will amend the Crimes Act 1900 to restore the adjudication of an accused person’s mental fitness to plead to its rightful place: in court. I commend the bill to the Assembly.

Debate (on motion by Mr Stefaniak) adjourned to the next sitting.

Justice and Community Safety Legislation Amendment Bill 2004 (No 2)

Mr Stanhope, pursuant to notice, presented the bill, its explanatory statement and a Human Rights Act compatibility statement.

Title read by clerk.

MR STANHOPE (GinninderraChief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Environment and Minister for Arts, Heritage and Indigenous Affairs) (10.51): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

Mr Speaker, the Justice and Community Safety Legislation Amendment Bill 2004 (No 2) is the eleventh bill in a series of bills dealing with legislation within the justice and community safety portfolio. The bill makes a number of minor and technical amendments to portfolio legislation. The amendments are as follows.

Agents Act 2003

This amendment corrects a mistaken reference to the first business day of the month in section 109 of the act. The reference is amended to the 10th business day of the month.

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