Page 5147 - Week 12 - Thursday, 27 October 2011

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The committee has resolved to inquire further into the report and is expecting to report to the Assembly as soon as is practicable.

Executive business—precedence

Ordered that executive business be called on.

Crimes (Protection of Witness Identity) Bill 2011

Debate resumed from 25 August 2011, on motion by Mr Corbell:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (12.02): The opposition will be supporting this bill, which is the fourth and last tranche in a series of bills based on model legislation developed by SCAG and the Australian Police Ministers Council working group on national investigative powers. This bill seeks to protect the identity of undercover operative witnesses in court proceedings. I note that similar legislation has already been adopted in Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania, South Australia and the commonwealth. Somewhat curiously, the Victorian version of legislation applies only to cross-border operations.

This bill empowers the ACT Chief Police Officer or the Chief Executive of the Australian Crime Commission to give a witness an identity protection certificate which would be valid across jurisdictions and which would enable the operative as a witness in court proceedings to give evidence under their assumed name or a court name; excuses the operative from giving their real name and address; and prevents questions being asked which might lead to the operative’s real name and address being revealed.

Certificates will be valid across jurisdictions and there are only very limited delegation powers for the Chief Police Officer and the CEO of the Australian Crime Commission. The certificate must carry certain prescribed information, including information about the witness’s credibility, such as criminal history, professional conduct and previous comments of courts about the person’s credibility. This information will be available to the defence without disclosing the identity of the operative.

In addition, the operative, as a witness, will appear in person in court and can be cross-examined. In certain circumstances, the court can authorise disclosure of the operative’s identity notwithstanding the existence of a certificate. Further, there are circumstances that would allow the court to stay proceedings.

In my consultation on the bill a view has been expressed to me that the threshold for issuing protection certificates is too low. In the process I was pointed to a recent UK media report on criticisms about undercover operatives giving false police statements and false court evidence, including their names, occupations and birth dates. Indeed, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary was due on October 20 to release a report on an inquiry into undercover tactics in public order and extremism, and the release of

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