Page 4181 - Week 13 - Wednesday, 16 November 2005

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Wednesday, 16 November 2005

MR SPEAKER (Mr Berry) took the chair at 10.30 am and asked members to stand in silence and pray or reflect on their responsibilities to the people of the Australian Capital Territory.

Sub judice convention

Debate resumed from 19 October 2005, on motion by Mr Stefaniak:

That this Assembly adopt the following practice when debating matters before a court:

(1) the Assembly reinforces the basic principle that debate should be avoided which could involve a substantial danger of prejudice to proceedings before a court, unless the Assembly considers that there is an overriding requirement for the Assembly to discuss a matter of public interest;

(2) debate shall be allowed in the Assembly on any matter before the courts unless it can be demonstrated by a Member of the Assembly that such debate will lead to a clear and substantial danger of prejudice in the courts’ proceedings;

(3) unless the matter before the Assembly could cause real prejudice to a trial or court hearing in the sense of either creating an atmosphere where a jury would be unable to deal fairly with the evidence put before it, or would somehow perhaps affect a future witness in the giving of evidence, whether for the prosecution or the defence, then the matter for debate or questioning before the Assembly should be allowed;

(4) sub judice only applies to matters which are awaiting or under adjudication in a court; and

(5) this resolution have effect from the date it is passed by the Assembly and continue in force unless and until amended or repealed by this or a subsequent Assembly.

MR STANHOPE (Ginninderra—Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for the Environment and Minister for Arts, Heritage and Indigenous Affairs) (10.32): This issue that Mr Stefaniak has brought forward for consideration by the Assembly is an important one. It is the issue of the extent to which the Assembly should be restricted in its discussion of matters that are under consideration by a court or a similar body. It is also the issue of the extent to which the Assembly should engage in debate or comment that might prejudice the outcome of legal proceedings.

As I think we are all aware, the Assembly is currently governed by the practice of the commonwealth House of Representatives when it comes to applying the sub judice convention to debates or comment. That position was noted, explained and applied by you, Mr Speaker, in the Assembly on 11 December 2002. The definitive guide to that practice is set out in the fourth edition of House of Representatives Practice, edited by the then Clerk of the House, Mr Harris.

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