Page 3926 - Week 12 - Thursday, 20 October 2005

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MR STANHOPE (Ginninderra—Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for the Environment and Minister for Arts, Heritage and Indigenous Affairs) (11.37), in reply: The present law in the ACT that deals with the proper administration of justice is partly contained in parts 8 and 9 of the Crimes Act 1900 and partly in the common law. This bill will improve the accessibility and effectiveness of the law in this area by conveniently locating the offences in one discrete chapter of the criminal code and comprehensively setting out in clear language the elements, defences and other relevant qualifications that apply to each offence.

A summary of the new codified offences is contained in the presentation speech and the introduction to the explanatory statement. However, it is worth reiterating some of the more important improvements that the bill will make to the law in this area. They include:

 a definition of legal proceedings that will clarify and simplify the application of these offences and ensure that they apply consistently to relevant criminal conduct performed in relation to judicial, quasi-judicial and administrative proceedings in which evidence can be taken on oath or affirmation;

 clarification of the elements and qualifications that apply to perjury and aggravated perjury, including that the offences apply to interpreters; that the false sworn statement need not be material to the proceedings; that only “incompetent” witnesses who lack the capacity to understand the obligation to tell the truth are not subject to perjury and that the old common law requirement for corroboration in relation to perjury no longer applies;

the inclusion of a range of specific offences that more clearly identify the kind of criminal behaviour that presently falls under the one general heading of “perverting the course of justice”, including offences of making or using false evidence, destroying or concealing evidence, bribing witnesses, interpreters, jurors and others involved in legal proceedings, preventing the production of evidence and the attendances of witnesses, interpreters and jurors, and deceiving, threatening or taking reprisals against witnesses, interpreters, jurors and others involved in legal proceedings;

 the inclusion of a separate part in chapter 7 that conveniently contains a number of summary offences related to this area of the law, including offences of pleading guilty in another name, obstructing or hindering an investigation, failing to attend legal proceedings to give evidence, failing to produce documents and other things, failing to take the oath, failing to answer questions, a summary offence of giving false or misleading evidence, and obstructing legal proceedings.

The bill will also remove some duplication in the statute book by repealing a large number of offences that will be replaced by relevant generic offences in chapter 7. I commend the bill.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (11.40): Mr Speaker, I apologise for not being here at the right moment, but I seek leave to speak to the bill.

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