Page 1248 - Week 04 - Thursday, 26 March 2015

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I thank the members of the directorate and the Attorney-General’s staff for their input and their advice. There has been a lot of engagement between my office and the minister’s office. I thank the Bar Association, the Law Society, the Victims of Crime Commissioner and Legal Aid for their input. I also thank my chief of staff, Mr Ian Hagan. He is a qualified lawyer and he has worked very hard on this issue. As a lawyer he has put an immense amount of deep thought, study and research into it to make sure we came to the right conclusion. It is very useful to have such a good and professional lawyer in my office to provide me with advice on these important matters.

MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (4.24): When the Attorney-General tabled this bill in February this year he outlined in his introductory comments that the bill is about promoting efficiency in court processes, and there are a range of provisions in the bill that seek to do that. I state on behalf of the ACT Greens that we support this bill in principle. However, we have concerns about clause 25, which Mr Hanson has just spoken about. I intend to outline my comments on that clause when we get to the detail stage. I support the bill in principle and welcome the efforts by the attorney to improve the efficiency of the courts. I indicate that we will not be supporting clause 25, and I will outline my comments on that in the detail stage.

MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Deputy Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Health, Minister for the Environment and Minister for Capital Metro) (4.25), in reply: I thank members for their comments on this bill. It reflects the government’s ongoing commitment to improving access to justice. It makes amendments that result in practical improvements and greater efficiency in the ACT courts and coronial systems.

I note the shadow minister’s comments in relation to the issues of efficiency and the interests of justice overall. They are very much interlinked. Justice delayed is justice denied, and timely access to and conduct of a trial are just as important as the other matters the shadow minister mentioned in his comments today.

This bill amends 16 pieces of legislation and repeals one act. One of the important changes in the bill is the amendment, as members have discussed, to make pre-trial interlocutory orders binding on the trial judge unless, in their opinion, it is not in the interests of justice. This change to the Court Procedures Act will reduce the opportunity for unnecessary re-litigation of process matters at trial. Currently, undoing interlocutory orders at trial can add unnecessary time to the trial and prevent the matter being heard within estimated time frames. It also increases costs for parties.

Another significant amendment which will prevent delays during the trial is the requirement for both the prosecution and the defence to disclose their expert evidence at the pre-trial stage. This change to the Court Procedures Act will ensure both parties are prepared to respond to each other’s expert evidence in a fair and timely manner. This saves time by avoiding unnecessary adjournments once the trial has commenced. It also saves costs and allows trials to occur in a more timely manner.

The amendment will not prevent a defendant raising new evidence at the trial, and it only requires disclosure of expert evidence that will be relied upon, thereby preserving the privilege as well as the defendant’s right to silence.

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