Page 1115 - Week 04 - Tuesday, 28 March 2017

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A stated intent of the government’s new NAPRO scheme is that it will remove bad influences and allow an offender to rehabilitate. Another consideration, though, is that, by criminalising association, NAPROs offer another way for an offender to commit an offence and thereby return to the criminal justice system, which will perpetuate negative influences.

If we were to make this law properly I think we would look at doing it in a more thoughtful and nuanced way. We would look at possibly limiting the application of NAPROs so that they could not prevent association between an offender and a member of their close family or prevent them attending their residence, a family member’s residence or place of work, education or worship. When NAPROs restrict such personal associations there is a high chance the person will breach the order regardless and thereby commit an offence. This may be particularly so with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who often have particularly close kinship ties. This flexibility was one of the recommendations of the New South Wales Ombudsman, who said that more flexible tailoring of orders should be allowed so that courts can permit an offender to visit a place at specified times or in specified circumstances such as in the company of a parent or guardian.

It is important to give this background and context. From one view it can seem reasonable to allow a court to place NAPROs on offenders convicted of serious firearm offences or money laundering offences. We want there to be suitable and sufficient laws in place to deal with serious organised crime. The problem is that this NAPRO scheme has been significantly broadened beyond its original scope, morphed into an ad hoc tool to respond to organised crime, and done without regard to the side effects that could possibly have. This has seemingly occurred in the absence of evidence that shows NAPROs are effective as a tool to combat serious organised crime.

On this issue, members may wish to consult the 2007 review, conducted by the New South Wales Ombudsman, of the New South Wales NAPRO laws. These laws were expanded with the stated purpose of targeting and breaking up gangs. This was done despite the law, in many respects, duplicating the existing powers of courts and correctional authorities to impose these types of conditions on offenders. The same thing appears to be happening in the ACT, which to me suggests that these amendments are the government stretching for ways to say publicly that they are interested in the issue of organised crime. The New South Wales Ombudsman concluded that the New South Wales NAPRO laws were not meeting the objectives of targeting and breaking up gangs.

The impetus for the expansion of NAPRO laws in the ACT is that there is a debate occurring about the threat of outlaw motorcycle gangs, or OMCGs, in the ACT. That debate has become very politicised. It should be noted that incidents involving offending that can be directly attributed to OMCGs are rare in the territory and, indeed, the level of activity by OMCGs is relatively low in the territory.

Mr Hanson and the Canberra Liberals have made it clear that they would like to go much further and introduce anti-consorting laws in the territory. These are laws that,

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