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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 08 Hansard (Thursday, 7 August 2008) . . Page.. 3005 ..

In order to remedy the situation, the bill amends the provisions of the Magistrates Court Act so that the magistrate may only proceed to hear a summary charge in the absence of the defendant if the magistrate is satisfied that the defendant is waiving the right to attend in person and that the decision to waive the right is a fully informed and voluntarily made decision. This is a great advance in ensuring that the human rights of all members of our community are protected in the criminal justice system.

The bill also addresses an issue that, while linked in many ways to the reforms I have just talked about, stems from different concerns. This is the issue of costs paid to a person who is acquitted of a charge in the Magistrates Court. For many years, the ACT has paid the highest rate of costs per person per head of population in the country. This has been due, in part, to the lack of a set scale of costs against which claims can be measured. The bill introduces a scale of costs so that there is consistency and certainty in the amount of costs awarded.

Finally, the bill amends the way in which prosecution appeals against the decision of the Magistrates Court may be instituted, to replace the existing cumbersome process with the more efficient process that defendants use for appeals from decisions in the same court.

These measures represent efficiencies of time, reduction in trauma for victims, certainty for defendants, reductions in court time for witnesses, a recognition of the human rights of the community and an increase in the effectiveness of the criminal justice system generally. They reflect the government’s commitment to ensuring that the criminal justice system is fair, effective and responsive to the needs of the Assembly and I commend the bill to the Assembly.

Debate (on motion by Mr Stefaniak) adjourned to the next sitting.

Domestic Violence and Protection Orders Bill 2008

Mr Corbell, pursuant to notice, presented the bill, its explanatory statement and a Human Rights Act compatibility statement.

Title read by Clerk.

MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Attorney-General, Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (10:51): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

Today, I am introducing the Domestic Violence and Protection Orders Bill 2008, which will replace the Domestic Violence and Protection Orders Act 2001. The purpose of this act is to provide enforceable court orders to protect people who experience domestic violence and other people who have good reason to fear violence.

Domestic and personal violence is a damaging blight on our society. People who experience violence require and deserve the assistance of our justice system to aid their protection. In the ACT, between 1 July last year and 1 July this year, there were

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