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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 08 Hansard (Wednesday, 29 August 2007) . . Page.. 2291 ..

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

The Assembly met at 10.30 am.

(Quorum formed.)

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

Crimes (Street Offences) Amendment Bill 2007

Mr Stefaniak, pursuant to notice, presented the bill and its explanatory statement.

Title read by Clerk.

MR STEFANIAK (Ginninderra—Leader of the Opposition) (10.32): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

This bill introduces, for a series of street offences and some other minor offences, an infringement notice system which would enable police to issue infringement notices along the same lines as they can for speeding, going through red lights and minor traffic matters such as that.

Recently, I completed a visit to all the police stations in the ACT. I thank the police minister for helping to arrange that. Every single police officer I spoke to indicated that this would greatly enhance our justice system and their ability to reduce the number of street offences.

Street offences are certainly not the most serious offences in the world, but if they are not curbed, quite often they can lead to more serious offences. For example, with people fighting in a public place, if that is not curtailed it might lead to something a lot more serious—serious assaults and possibly even death. So it is very important that the police have adequate powers and tools to enable them to counter these types of offences.

Street offences include urinating in public, and offensive behaviour and offensive language, which are at present truncated into offensive language but I am proposing in this bill that they be separate offences. We used to have it, and it used to be particularly effective in the old police offences ordinance. It is also present in the New South Wales legislation. Other offences on the statute books, such as fighting in public places and defacing premises, are of great annoyance to law-abiding members of the public, and indeed to the police. As I said, they are often a precursor to people committing much more serious offences such as serious assaults.

In visiting the police stations, at the Civic station I spoke to one officer who had recently transferred to the AFP, having worked in New South Wales. About five years ago, New South Wales introduced infringement notices for street offences. In the district of Sydney in which this officer worked, the incidence of street offences actually halved, and that is of benefit to everyone, including the offender.

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