Page 4300 - Week 13 - Thursday, 19 November 2015

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Courts Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 (No 2)

Debate resumed from 29 October 2015, on motion by Mr Corbell:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR HANSON (Molonglo—Leader of the Opposition) (5.34): The Canberra Liberals will be supporting this bill. It makes a number of amendments in relation to the operation of courts and tribunals. It ensures there is no legislative impediment to the efficient sharing of courtroom facilities between the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal and the Magistrates Court. It makes changes as a result of the repeal of the Mediation Act 1997. It streamlines the referral of healthcare-related deaths to the coroner. It provides that special magistrates do not automatically become coroners unless they are appointed as such by the Chief Coroner. It includes an overriding objective provision for the application of legislative provisions to civil proceedings in the courts. It clarifies the provision for recovery of court or tribunal fees and clarifies the application of freedom of information to the courts. There are a number of other elements that are reasonably minor in this legislation.

There has been some comment from the Law Society that we have noted. There were also a number of comments from the scrutiny of bills committee that have been noted. I have received some correspondence from the Attorney-General regarding an amendment that he will be moving. I indicate that the opposition will be supporting the amendment once it is moved by the Attorney-General.

MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (5.35): This bill proposes changes to 13 different acts and regulations with the aim of making improvements and efficiencies in the ACT court, tribunal and coronial systems. I support the bill and will not go through every change that it proposes but I make some brief comments on several of the amendments.

The bill introduces a committal waiver provision in relation to criminal proceedings. This will allow the magistrate, on application by the accused person and with the consent of the prosecution, to commit the accused for trial without a committal hearing. As the Attorney-General has pointed out, this was a provision suggested by the ACT legal profession and has the support of both the Chief Magistrate and the DPP. It is encouraging to see suggestions coming forward from those involved in the day-to-day matters of the courts, and these can be implemented and hopefully improve the efficiency of the courts for all stakeholders.

The idea, of course, is that this creates a mechanism by which a matter can be committed for trial with the agreement of the accused and the prosecution without the magistrate needing to consider the matter separately. I understand the process is based on the committal waiver provision in the New South Wales Criminal Procedure Act and that it requires the accused to apply via a form similar to the forms required by the New South Wales Local Court rules.

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