Page 3746 - Week 11 - Tuesday, 24 September 2019

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Evidence (Miscellaneous Provisions) Amendment Bill 2019

Mr Ramsay, pursuant to notice, presented the bill, its explanatory statement and a Human Rights Act compatibility statement.

Title read by Clerk.

MR RAMSAY (Ginninderra—Attorney-General, Minister for the Arts, Creative Industries and Cultural Events, Minister for Building Quality Improvement, Minister for Business and Regulatory Services and Minister for Seniors and Veterans) (10.24): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

Today I am pleased to present the Evidence (Miscellaneous Provisions) Amendment Bill 2019 to the Assembly. The bill makes positive changes to ACT legislation, following the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

I have spoken before in this place about the importance of the royal commission. As I have said and will continue to say, the abuse of a child is a terrible crime, perpetrated against the most vulnerable in our community, which cannot be tolerated. It is a fundamental breach of the trust which children are entitled to place in adults. We must acknowledge our collective failures to protect children in the past and take responsibility for protecting them into the future.

The government has already implemented a number of recommendations from the royal commission, including legislative and non-legislative measures. This bill represents the fourth legislative implementation of the royal commission’s criminal justice recommendations and will be followed by further reforms through both future bills and non-legislative reforms. Let me now turn to the amendments in this bill giving effect to the royal commission recommendations.

This bill creates the legal framework for the use of intermediaries in criminal proceedings. An intermediary is an independent communication specialist whose role is to assist a person with communication difficulties to communicate with police and the court. The bill requires intermediaries to be appointed for all child complainants in sexual offence proceedings and all child witnesses in homicide proceedings, subject to some exceptions. The bill also provides the court with a discretion to appoint intermediaries for other witnesses, including defendants, who have a communication difficulty.

The scheme will be administered by the Victims of Crime Commissioner, within the ACT Human Rights Commission. The commissioner will establish a panel of intermediaries. To be on the panel, a person must have tertiary qualifications in psychology, social work, speech pathology or occupational therapy. The bill also allows the Victims of Crime Commissioner to appoint a person who has other qualifications, training, experience or skills suitable to exercise the functions of an intermediary.

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