Page 4094 - Week 13 - Tuesday, 15 November 2005

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that these provisions will not impede an offender’s human rights, while providing protection for victims of violence and the community.

My second concern was regarding issues raised by the scrutiny of bills committee about confidentiality. Part 4.2 provides for the making by an assessor of a presentence report about an offender. The report is provided to the sentencing court. However, there appeared to be no restriction on the use the assessor might make of the information obtained. In his response to the committee, however, the Attorney-General outlined that the assessor of the information would be governed in their actions by the Public Sector Management Act 1994 and, as such, is required not to unlawfully disclose any information acquired as a consequence of their employment. As a result of this advice, I consider that the Attorney-General has satisfied my concern about this particular privacy issue.

My final concern was with regard to the court’s ability to convert a fine to imprisonment if the fine is defaulted upon by the convicted person, as per clause 73 of the bill and division 3.9.2 of the Magistrates Court Act. These provisions illustrate that, if the convicted person defaults on paying the fine placed before them by the courts, they may be committed to prison for a period that pays off the fine at $100 a day. Although the courts may allow the convicted person more time to pay the fine, to provide security for the fine, or to pay the fine in instalments, I am greatly concerned that sending the convicted person to prison might not be the best available option for the community’s needs or for the individual’s needs. Rather, I would like to see the courts provided with the option to order the individual to pay off the fine by completing community work, as that might provide a greater benefit to the community, the government and the individual involved, always understanding that that individual may have people dependent upon him or her.

In addition, I am also concerned that when a fine is ordered an individual’s ability to pay that fine will be greatly impacted upon by their financial status and their ability to access large sums of ready cash. Such a provision surely is not fair or equitable. A logical corollary is that low income people are more likely to default on their fines and therefore spend time in jail more often than those on higher incomes. That will just increase their already fragile economic viability.

I am aware that today’s debate is not the appropriate place to make amendments regarding fines under the Magistrate Court Act. However, I understand that the government will be undertaking further work on criminal legislation next year. I hope that the government will include such amendments in this work.

Turning to the Crimes (Sentence Administration) Bill, my office had a number of concerns with this bill initially, but departmental officers have provided us with an excellent briefing and have handled our concerns well. I take this opportunity to thank them. The main concerns we had with this bill related to obscurity in some provisions, the recognition of rights of victims, and inappropriate delegation of legislative power to the executive.

One of the obscure provisions was subclause 28 (2), relating to allowing full-time detainees not to complete community service work if they were considered incapable. This subclause was very obscure in outlining how this incapacity was determined.

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