Page 5478 - Week 14 - Thursday, 30 November 2017
Acknowledging article 20 of the OPCAT, a number of powers have been provided for in this bill to ensure that the inspector is able to effectively fulfil their role and prevent harm occurring. These powers include the ability for the inspector to enter a correctional centre at any time; take any equipment required to effectively conduct an inspection of a correctional centre; have access to and talk to detainees in private at any time, with a support person of their choice where requested; talk to staff in private; inspect any document, including a health record, relating to a detainee, correctional centre or the provision of correctional services; compel people to provide documents or information or to present themselves to answer questions relevant to an examination or review; and to keep any documents, or make copies of any documents compelled, for as long as necessary. They are very extensive powers and underline the government’s commitment to ensuring that this is a powerful and effective role in ensuring the oversight of our correctional facilities.
The bill creates an offence if a person, without reasonable excuse, fails to give assistance or answer any questions asked by the inspector or obstructs or hinders the exercise of the inspector’s functions. It is intended that the criminal penalties serve as a deterrent to obstruction of the inspector carrying out their functions and that they need only apply as a last resort protection against non-compliance. The inspector’s powers are critical for any effective preventative monitoring regime as the deterrence of mismanagement depends, among other things, on a required level of access to places of detention, relevant information, equipment and people.
A number of safeguards are also included in the bill which allow the inspector to carry out their mandate without detainees, their families, staff or non-government service providers in correctional centres being fearful of the consequences of providing information. The bill removes the common-law privilege against self-incrimination and civil liability that would otherwise allow a person to refuse to answer questions or produce documents as requested by the inspector. It provides that material obtained as a result of a person having to act without the protection of the privilege cannot be used as evidence against them in court proceedings other than for an offence under the Inspector of Correctional Services Act, or for an offence in relation to the falsification of the information, document or other thing.
The bill also creates an offence if a person takes discriminating, harassing or intimidating action, injures a person or damages a person’s property because they intend to disclose, have disclosed or are thought to have disclosed information to the inspector. This may be particularly important if the information a person wishes to provide is seen as compromising the reputation of a person or agency.
In addition, the bill ensure that any information a person has access to because of the act remains confidential. It creates an offence for a person to use, share or divulge information in a private capacity not in accordance with the act or another territory law. This is an important provision intended to ensure that an individual’s right to privacy is protected and the security of correctional centres is maintained.
To ensure accountability and transparency of reviews and inspections, the inspector is required to provide a report within six months of its completion. This time frame may be extended up to 12 months with approval of the responsible minister. These reports