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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 04 Hansard (Thursday, 26 March 2015) . . Page.. 1249 ..

I highlighted in my response to the scrutiny of bills committee and to both Mr Hanson and Mr Rattenbury that these new requirements are broadly consistent with the approach adopted in other Australian jurisdictions, but they do not go as far, as Mr Hanson has noted, as the provisions that exist, for example, in New South Wales, which require extensive disclosure of much of the defence case prior to the trial. It is not the intention of the government to adopt such a broad-ranging provision here.

Another measure that will enhance the disclosure process is that the Director of Public Prosecutions has advised that he intends to publish a formal disclosure policy as part of his review of the DPP’s prosecution guidelines. I am advised it is expected the DPP will make this formal disclosure policy and have it in place by mid-2015, and I believe that will also assist in addressing some of the concerns that have been raised by the defence bar in their representations on this matter.

Finally, as members have indicated and as I can foreshadow, I will be moving a further amendment during the detail stage that makes clear that any disclosure is not to be relied upon when it comes to any comments that may self-incriminate the accused. Whilst it would be fair to observe that such protections already exist, for example, in the Evidence Act, for the avoidance of any doubt it is desirable to also move this amendment today. I trust that also helps address the concerns raised by members of the criminal defence bar in Canberra, who have been very constructive in their discussions with the government, and clearly with other parties, over the last few weeks.

Let me turn to some other matters in the bill. The bill requires appeals against interlocutory orders of the master to be heard by the Court of Appeal, as is currently the case with orders of single judges of the Supreme Court. This amendment to the Supreme Court Act will also support the court procedure rules, which confer the same civil jurisdiction on the master as is exercisable by a Supreme Court judge. The bill will also change the title of “Master” to “Associate Judge”. Whilst ensuring appropriate gender neutrality, it perhaps more properly recognises the expansive civil jurisdiction of the role and brings the ACT into line with other jurisdictions.

A further change being made to the Supreme Court Act is to abolish the role of President of the Court of Appeal. This position has been vacant since 2011, and no legal or logistical complications have arisen from its removal due to the existing overlap with the functions and responsibilities of the office of Chief Justice. The orderly and expeditious discharge of the business of the court will continue to remain the responsibility of the Chief Justice.

The bill addresses concerns about the interpretation of section 268 of the Magistrates Court Act, which deals with the transfer of proceedings from the Supreme Court to the Magistrates Court. This provision was introduced in April 2014 to facilitate the transfer of proceedings between the courts because of the increase to the civil jurisdiction of the Magistrates Court to $250,000. Difficulties have been identified in the interpretation of this new section in a 2014 decision of Master Mossop as to how to look back in time to determine whether the proceedings proposed to transfer could properly have been begun in the Magistrates Court. The amendment will accordingly remove any conclusion by allowing the Supreme Court to transfer relevant cases to the Magistrates Court if appropriate on the basis of the particular circumstances.

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