Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 03 Hansard (Tuesday, 1 April 2008) . . Page.. 719 ..
are working in these places, and patrons going into enjoy themselves in the evening should not be exposed to violent and antisocial behaviour. This is an opportunity to give the police the capacity to address this without the tedium of going through court proceedings, and so I think it is a first step in the right direction, Mr Speaker.
MR SMYTH (Brindabella) (11.31): I commend the approach taken by Mr Stefaniak to law enforcement, which involves a greater use of infringement notices or, as they are known in the common vernacular, on-the-spot fines. This approach requires that police officers use their judgement. That is very important, first, because police officers are highly trained; second, because they have a very good understanding of the law; and, third, because they see situations as they occur or as they respond to them and are there on the spot. It is quite reasonable that things that do not have to go to court but do need some response from us as a community are tackled in this way. There is considerable merit in police officers being able to issue an on-the-spot fine.
As my colleague Mr Stefaniak noted, there is also a considerable saving in administration and associated activities in which police can be involved if they have to arrest a person and process that person through to appearance in court. Therefore, there is also an impact on the court system. It should free up not only the police but also the court system and its resources. I have no issue whatsoever in police being asked to use their judgement in responding to issues and being able to bring things to a head and issue an on-the-spot fine. In fact, I commend it to the Assembly.
In a way, the government’s stance is a vote of no confidence in the training and judgement of our police. The exclusion of issues like fighting in a public place and offensive behaviour effectively nobbles Mr Corbell’s bill into becoming a dramatic case of me-tooism. Mr Stefaniak had his bill on the table on 29 August last year. The government brought their bill forward in February this year as a response to a series of incidents in both Civic and Manuka; initially they were not going to respond.
With any illegal activity there are always degrees of seriousness. I do not hear any significant argument from the government against the notion of including fighting in a public place and offensive behaviour. It seems to work reasonably well in New South Wales; I am not aware of any problem there. But if the offence is that serious in the judgement of the police, they can take it to court. So you end up with the middle path. Now, in many cases, nothing happens or a person is taken to court for a moment of silliness that has had a minor effect on the community. They should be fined and processed on the spot.
The key feature of Mr Stefaniak’s bill is to extend the range of offences for which on-the-spot fines can be issued. There can be a minor offence or there can be a more major offence. We get back to the whole issue of judgement. And what starts as a minor offence can often escalate to a major offence. Let us allow the police officers who are at the location of the offence exercise their judgement as to whether to issue an on-the-spot fine or take more substantial action. Police officers should be allowed to use their judgement.
We need to look at the consequences of the approach that we are debating today. There are numerous benefits for the community. It gives the police another tool in