Page 1802 - Week 05 - Thursday, 16 May 2019

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strengthening laws that were introduced in the last term of government around strangulation. In 2015 this Assembly passed laws that specifically recognised strangling or attempting to strangle a person a crime that is disproportionately associated with family violence as an act that endangers the life or health of a person.

In the March 2019 decision of R v Green (No 3) the ACT Supreme Court interpreted that legislation as requiring proof that a victim of strangulation stopped breathing. That interpretation is much narrower than intended by the 2015 reforms. The scientific evidence is that any restriction on blood or air through the neck increases the risk of direct health complications and possibly death. Non-fatal strangulation in a family violence setting increases the risk of attempted or completed homicide by at least sixfold. The amendments in this bill clarify the legislation to ensure that this crime can continue to be effectively prosecuted.

The bill also includes important changes to the procedures that police use to help victims seek protection orders. Amendments in this bill will allow senior police officers to take affidavits of service in family or personal violence proceedings. These changes allow for more expeditious service and finalisation of protection order matters. This will reduce delay for vulnerable members of our community. While this change is technical and deals with the requirements of service of process, it will result in tangible benefits for people who turn to the legal system for protection.

This bill also contains a series of extremely practical, effective reforms that will target organised crime. Changes to the Firearms Act 1996 will help police and prosecutors hold accountable people who illegally possess firearms, and this is a very important part of our comprehensive strategy to combat organised crime.

Current laws make it an offence for a person to use or possess a firearm without authorisation. It is straightforward to discover whether a person is authorised by an ACT licence or permit. However, the prosecution must also prove the defendant does not hold a licence or permit anywhere else in the country. This means the prosecution is required to seek evidence from every other jurisdiction and lead this evidence at trial. Even with this information, it is more complex to get it admitted as all the information is second hand and not covered by evidentiary certificates under the Firearms Act 1996.

This bill reorganise the offences in question. The make-up of the offences will not change but now the prosecution will not have to disprove every possible licence or permit; the defendant will be required to prove that they do hold the authorisation. This is a straightforward and reasonable change to prevent firearms crime from being unaddressed due to legal technicalities, ensuring the proper operation of the justice system and effective community protection.

There are also important amendments in the bill to support the ACT’s participation in the national cooperative scheme on unexplained wealth. These laws are key in undermining criminal syndicates by depriving criminals of the financial means and motivations for their crimes. The equitable sharing arrangements under the intergovernmental agreement mean that whenever there is a successful unexplained wealth action all contributing jurisdictions share in the proceeds.

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