Page 2315 - Week 08 - Tuesday, 28 June 2005

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events such as the Eastman and bushfire inquiries. Such matters have significant impact on resources and the application of justice. Also, similar types of matters are likely to crop up on a regular basis, thereby affecting the means by which that office goes about its tasks. I will speak a bit more about that later in relation to the budget.

We did note that that report was very well presented, providing good data and a thoughtful analysis in the way it addressed its working environment, raising issues and discussing data. The director did raise concerns about the annual report process itself, stating, “It is sometimes difficult to see the significance of some of the information required in this report.” He suggested that more thought could be given to the genuine value of the information in such reports. I think that that is a pretty reasonable request. I do not think that we need to report things just for the sake of reporting them. It does take a lot of time and effort on behalf of agencies and I think that it is important to ensure that they report on things that are crucial to the running of the territory.

The committee also noted the director’s concern that the ACT is the only jurisdiction without some form of the offence of constructive murder and that the ACT differs from other jurisdictions in that the mental element of the offence of murder is much more difficult to prove here than in most other jurisdictions. Page 13 of the annual report of the DPP states:

In the ACT it has been the law since 1990 that the prosecution has to prove, in relation to the mental element, that the accused either intended to kill the deceased or was reckless as to the probability of death occurring. In other jurisdictions it is sufficient that the accused had the intention to inflict grievous bodily harm.

The committee noted the difficulty of obtaining a conviction for murder in the ACT when death occurs during a serious unlawful event. The committee was concerned that this situation places Canberra citizens and the DPP at a disadvantage relative to other jurisdictions in Australia. The matter cropped up as a result of a person attempting to rob the Latham post office armed with a very large knife and being bravely accosted by the person who ran the post office. An elderly gentlemen who went to the assistance of the post office person, a very brave act, paid for it with his life.

In any other jurisdiction the person who did the killing would be charged with murder. It is called felony murder or constructive murder. That did not apply in the ACT and a manslaughter verdict was brought in. Hence, the fact that we are the only jurisdiction not to have that type of offence was raised as an issue. Accordingly, the committee has recommended that the ACT government investigate the inclusion of the offence of constructive murder within the criminal law of the ACT.

The Legal Aid Office has a problem with ensuring that there are enough people to provide legal aid. Generally, the system works very well, but there were concerns in that regard. We noted the concern of the president of the Legal Aid Commission of the ACT, who stated:

Ever tightening purse strings have led to private lawyers opting out of legal aid work … there remains a core of private legal practitioners who are prepared to do legal aid work and I express my gratitude to them for supporting the system. I hope that the Commission will be able to improve their remuneration. I am aware that in many instances they undertake legal aid work because of a feeling of professional

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