Page 272 - Week 01 - Thursday, 16 February 2006

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Queensland code has no qualms about describing an unborn child as such. It states in terms of the killing of an unborn child:

Any person who, when a female is about to be delivered of a child, prevents the child from being born alive by any act or omission of such a nature that, if the child had been born alive and had then died, the person would be deemed to have unlawfully killed the child, is guilty of a crime and is liable to imprisonment for life.

Life, of course, is what you get here for murder. It goes on to say:

Any person who unlawfully assaults a female pregnant with a child and destroys the life of, or does grievous bodily harm to, or transmits a serious disease to, the child before its birth commits a crime.

The maximum penalty is imprisonment for life. That is strong, stark law which I hope will act as some type of deterrent against these types of actions. It certainly reflects the gravity with which society holds these crimes. If you talk to ordinary people in the streets, if you talk to people in the pubs, if you talk to people in the clubs and if you talk to people at sporting matches, you will find that they are certainly appalled by serious acts of violence against women generally, but against women who are pregnant with a child particularly. That is one of the lowest acts any accused or any defendant can do.

I know that a lot of them are to do with crimes of passion and relationships that have gone wrong, but it is a particularly nasty act. I have seen on occasions in this jurisdiction and elsewhere reports of these types of acts occurring, luckily in the instances I can recall with no actual lasting damage to the women concerned. In one instance there might have been some damage to a child. I had ceased to practise by then and I am not too sure what happened to that case, but they were particularly nasty acts and I do not think that the law in the ACT has been sufficiently strong to deter these acts in the past.

I will come now to some of the items in this bill. It is better than nothing. I am pleased to see the Chief Minister and Attorney-General is actually increasing penalties. He has put on a loading, as my colleague Mr Pratt says. The loading is 30 per cent in some instances and a bit less than that in other instances. But for manslaughter, for example, the penalty is 20 years imprisonment. Everywhere else it is at least 25 years or life. I hope that we will go up to that. At least here it is up from 20 years to 26 years. There is a new section for inflicting grievous bodily harm, for which I believe the penalty is 15 years imprisonment in the territory and is now up to 20 years for this offence. So there is a loading there of 30 per cent or thereabouts.

I think that the penalty for recklessly inflicting grievous bodily harm is to go from 10 years to 13 years as there is to be a loading there. I always thought that the maximum penalty of five years for wounding was ridiculously low for what is a quite serious offence. It is to go up to seven years here, as it will for actual bodily harm and assault occasioning actual bodily harm. The penalty for culpable driving is to go from seven years to nine years. I think that the penalty in the ACT for culpable driving is about twice as low as the most serious culpable driving offence in New South Wales.

I think that that shows as much as anything else the stark need for a revision of some of the penalties in our Crimes Act. I know that the part about crimes against a person will be the next part of the Criminal Code to come up. I certainly hope that the attorney and

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