Page 2531 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 1 July 2008

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Those are the concerns that I put on the record in relation to this matter. We will see how it goes in practice. A lot of what is in here is quite sensible in terms of ensuring that, for a young person who may have the capacity to pay in six months time, it can be reassessed. Those things are quite sensible. It merely puts into the legislation what has been the practice probably for 20 or 25 years in our jurisdiction, and it is a sensible practice. I certainly make those comments in relation to young people who thumb their nose at the system. I am a little concerned that this may make it more difficult, when they should perhaps do time in lieu, for that to occur.

MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Attorney-General, Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (6.38): I will speak briefly to these amendments. Government amendments to schedule 1 of the bill amend part 3.9 of the Magistrates Court Act to change the procedure that the Magistrates Court is to take when dealing with young offenders who default on the payment of a court imposed fine. It will build on amendments that the government made earlier this year to ensure that young people are not imprisoned because they cannot afford to pay a court ordered fine.

Under the new procedure, the court will only have the discretion to order the imprisonment of a fine defaulter in a youth detention centre if the court finds that the young person has the ability to pay the fine but deliberately chooses not to pay it. The court can only order the imprisonment of a young offender who refuses to pay a fine after the following steps have been taken: the young offender is served notice of the fine but does not pay within the required period; the young offender has had their capacity to pay the fine assessed by the court and the court finds that they have a capacity to pay; the young offender is given an opportunity to make alternative arrangements for the payment of a fine—for example, to pay the fine in instalments—and the young offender refuses to enter into such an arrangement; and the young offender’s drivers licence is suspended, if they have one, and they still continue to refuse to pay the fine.

The policy objective, of course, is to avoid imprisonment of young people simply for fine default, and I think that is a sensible measure. The proposal that the government is putting in place through this amendment will help to inform our decision making around reform of fine default for the adult jurisdiction as well and whether or not improvements are needed there. In my view, improvements are needed in relation to adult fine default. We are one of the few jurisdictions left in the country where imprisonment for fine default remains a common alternative. It is important that we revisit that matter, and that is a piece of policy work which my department is pursuing at this time.

This approach will pave the way for similar thinking—not necessarily exactly the same but similar thinking—in relation to adult offenders, and it will further allow us to ensure that every alternative has been taken and explored prior to a young person being imprisoned for fine default.

MR STEFANIAK (Ginninderra) (6.40): I thank the attorney for that explanation. Obviously the amendment will go through. We will monitor that, attorney. Might I just say, from certainly my time in private practice, that it is amazing how people have

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