Page 3466 - Week 08 - Thursday, 18 August 2011

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More importantly, the penalties for equivalent offences in the Model Criminal Code are also significantly higher than the current ACT penalties. Amendments that bring the ACT’s criminal law closer to the Model Criminal Code are desirable. Under the Model Criminal Code the maximum penalty for culpable driving causing death is 25 years. The maximum penalty for culpable driving causing grievous bodily harm is 10 years. An ancillary result of increasing the maximum penalty for culpable driving causing death to 14 years is that such a charge would in future always be dealt with by the ACT Supreme Court. At present a charge can be dealt with in either the Magistrates Court or the Supreme Court. Given the seriousness of the offence, it is appropriate that it be dealt with by the Supreme Court.

It is possible that there will be an impact on the workload of the Supreme Court but Magistrates Court data indicates that in the three years to the end of the 2010-11 only five matters for this offence were finalised; so the impact is likely to be minimal.

In looking at the question of maximum penalties, the government has sought to ensure the overall penalty scheme remains balanced and progresses logically according to the relative seriousness of each of offence. Close attention has been paid to the elements of each of the offences against the person to ensure proportionality and fairness between penalties. As a result of this careful analysis and in response to concerns raised by the DPP, the bill also increases the maximum penalties for three more offences.

Intentionally inflicting grievous bodily harm currently carries a maximum penalty of 15 years imprisonment. The DPP has advised the government that in his view a 15 year maximum does not adequately reflect the seriousness of this offence. Grievous bodily harm includes any permanent or serious disfiguring of a person and covers injuries that are just short of death such as coma or paralysis. Most significantly, the offence is one of intent meaning that it involves the highest degree of fault recognised by the criminal law.

The bill raises the maximum penalty for this offence to 20 years. As a result, the penalty for intentionally inflicting grievous bodily harm will now be the same as the penalty for manslaughter, an offence of similar seriousness. The increase also better aligns the offence with the new culpable driving penalties.

Mr Speaker, the bill raises the penalty for recklessly inflicting grievous bodily harm to 13 years from 10 years and the penalty for negligently causing harm to five years from two years. The new penalties for these offences are appropriate given the relative seriousness of the offences and ensure that the penalties fit within the balanced scale of maximum penalties for offences against the person.

The bill also modifies the operation of section 48A. Section 48A was inserted into the Crimes Act in 2006 and creates an aggravated form of some offences where there is harm to a pregnancy. By virtue of section 48A a higher maximum penalty applies where an offence is committed against a pregnant woman and the woman loses the pregnancy or serious harm is caused to it or death or serious harm is caused to the unborn child. Currently the penalties specified for these aggravated offences are approximately 30 per cent higher than the penalty for the basic offence.

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