Page 1671 - Week 06 - Thursday, 23 July 2020

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Executive business—precedence

Ordered that executive business be called on.

Royal Commission Criminal Justice Legislation Amendment Bill 2020

Debate resumed from 2 July 2020, on motion by Mr Ramsay:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR HANSON (Murrumbidgee) (4.53): The Canberra Liberals will support this bill. It is the latest and, according to the presentation speech, the last in a series of bills to implement the recommendations of the royal commission into institutional abuse. I will not go through every clause or comment, but I will touch on the main areas of the bill.

The first area is about maintaining a sexual relationship with a young person under special protection. This relates to those circumstances where an ongoing relationship of a sexual nature was conducted over a period of time. The recommendation arose from the royal commission to prevent situations where offenders were not being convicted because of the requirement for detailed prosecutions and trials for every single accused offence, which created unjust outcomes.

A version of this was legislated in March 2018, with the Canberra Liberals’ support. However, a recent ACT Court of Appeal decision found that, in some respects, the legislative intention to implement the royal commission recommendations has not been realised. This amendment addresses those comments to implement what was originally intended. I note comments raised about the possibilities of double prosecutions, but in the full context of this law and our previous commitment, we confirm our support for this change.

The second area relates to changes to tendency and coincidence evidence provisions. This area is more complex and more controversial. Traditionally, tendency evidence has been restricted or excluded from trials, as it goes against the presumption that the prosecution must prove the offence in front of the court and it raises an unacceptable risk that the person is convicted simply because they have a tendency to commit a crime. However, the royal commission and the federal Council of Attorneys-General have considered the matter and reached a nationally agreed model for its use in limited circumstances in child sex offence cases.

Under the bill, some tendency evidence may be admitted when that evidence shows a specific tendency for a particular type of offence and that same offence is in issue in the current case or when it is relevant to show an act or state of mind that is important in the context of the current proceeding as a whole. In either case, the court will consider the particular circumstances of each case at hand, and whether the admission would, on probability, be unfair, and must give proper instructions to the jury before the evidence can be admitted.

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