Page 3925 - Week 12 - Thursday, 20 October 2005

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2005, relating to the sitting pattern for 2005 be amended by omitting Friday, 21 October 2005.

This is a simple amendment to delete the proposed half-day of sittings for tomorrow. The government has been progressing through its business promptly, the Assembly has been dealing with the business promptly and therefore there is no need to sit tomorrow.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Criminal code (Administration of Justice Offences) Amendment Bill 2005

Debate resumed from 23 June 2005, on motion by Mr Stanhope:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR STEFANIAK (Ginninderra) (11.34): This bill represents the next stage in a process that started in 2001 to codify the criminal law of the ACT along the lines of recommendations made by the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. What it does is to insert a new chapter 7 in the criminal code to deal with offences that are directed against the proper administration of justice in the ACT.

Most people in the community would have heard of offences such as perjury and perverting the course of justice. These offences are likely to be found in the common law, and what the bill does is to effectively codify these offences. Included in the bill are all the offences that were recommended by the Model Criminal Code Officers Committee, which has been meeting in relation to the code for a number of years, together with excerpts from the Crimes Act where some of these offences are also to be found. The penalties for these offences are those recommended by the model criminal code committee, and where there were offences already in the Crimes Act they have been replicated for those offences here.

The bill is a practical development that accords with the model criminal code committee recommendations. It is consistent with the position in most Australian jurisdictions and I think it will make it more difficult to abuse the law by lying. This area of the law in the ACT has been enforced in only a very slapdash way in the past and this bill will add clarity and strength to improving the integrity of the system and punishing people who deliberately mislead and/or lie to the courts. It is consistent with most other jurisdictions and I am advised that the Commonwealth will be introducing identical legislation.

I had some practice in relation to these issues when I was a prosecutor and it was very rare for courts to take action. Invariably, what they would do—and they would only do it rarely—was refer matters to the Attorney-General if they thought a witness was blatantly lying. I think that quite often in the past courts probably could have taken greater action. This bill will assist that process and, hopefully, be a disincentive to people to deliberately mislead and lie to the courts. So I do see it as very much a step in the right direction in terms of sensible amendments to the criminal law and sensible codification of the criminal law, and the opposition will support it.

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