Bail Amendment (Stage 2) Bill 2017 | Sue Pennicuik

Bail Amendment (Stage 2) Bill 2017

I am very pleased to rise to speak to the Bail Amendment (Stage Two) Bill 2017. The Parliament dealt with the Bail Amendment (Stage One) Bill 2017 earlier this year, and the provisions of that bill have not come into operation. In fact they are just languishing in a long list at the end of the Bail Act 1977, waiting for 1 July. I say that because the government has engaged in something I think is a less than perfect process with regard to these bail amendments.
Thursday, February 22, 2018 - 10:30am
Sue Pennicuik

I am very pleased to rise to speak to the Bail Amendment (Stage Two) Bill 2017. The Parliament dealt with the Bail Amendment (Stage One) Bill 2017 earlier this year, and the provisions of that bill have not come into operation. In fact they are just languishing in a long list at the end of the Bail Act 1977, waiting for 1 July. I say that because the government has engaged in something I think is a less than perfect process with regard to these bail amendments. Of course we know that the whole process was set in train after the tragic events in Bourke Street, and the government asked for advice on the Bail Act. That was conducted by the Honourable Paul Coghlan, QC, who released two
advices: a stage 1 advice, which was very specific to provisions of the act, and a stage 2 advice, which was a bit broader but also spoke about specific provisions. I said during my contribution on the stage 1 bail bill that I recommended that people actually read the stage 1 advice if they wanted to understand how the bail system works.

It was very well written and set out in very plain English how the bail system works and also the recommendations that Mr Coghlan was putting forward to improve the bail system. I would like to make the same comments about the stage 2 advice. Again, it is written in plain English for those not familiar with legislation, how legislation works and how the courts work to implement legislation. It is a very well-written report for people not only in this Parliament but in the broader community to understand.

As I mentioned, the actual changes to the Bail Act that were passed under the Bail Amendment (Stage One) Bill have not yet come into play. They are due to comeinto play on 1 July. I find it disappointing because, and
Mr Rich-Phillips pointed this out, one of the key recommendations of the Coghlan review was a complete rewrite of the Bail Act and that has not occurred. Instead we have had stage 1 amendments, some of which the Greens opposed. We also proposed amendments to the Bail Amendment (Stage One) Bill, some of which now appear in this bill. That was because at the time under the stage 1 report the Honourable Paul Coghlan recommended that certain provisions that were in the Bail Amendment (Stage One) Bill be enacted at the same time as other provisions which were not in the Bail Amendment (Stage One) Bill but are in this bill. For all intents and purposes it does not really matter because the actual act that is in force at the moment and that the courts are working with is the Bail Act 1977. The amendments made last year have not come into play.

I asked the government why they were not putting it all together in a rewrite of the act or at least putting in place all of the Honourable Paul Coghlan’s recommended changes to the Bail Act at the same time. It was driven by the government being able to make an announcement that they had made changes to the Bail Act when in fact they had made changes to the Bail Act but those changes were actually not going to come into play. They still have not come into play as we stand here now; they are not due to come into play until 1 July. While I say that, the latest the provisions in this stage two bill could come in is 1 October—they could be proclaimed earlier. I am advised by the government that they are intending to enact all of the provisions by late May this year. That is the situation we are actually facing. We are still actually dealing with the original Bail Act 1977. I think this is a terrible process that has
been followed. We are making, as a Parliament, very important changes to the Bail Act and very significant changes to the Bail Act but the process has been less than impressive.

The other thing to say is that the Honourable Paul Coghlan in his stage 1 and stage 2 advice recommended a range of changes. Some of those are in these two bills—the stage one bill and the stage two bill— regarding tightening up of the bail system with regard to serious offenders and serious offences; we have introduced the schedule one offences and the schedule two offences. Under the Bail Amendment (Stage One) Bill the show cause tests was renamed to the show compelling reason test against the advice of the Honourable Paul Coghlan, who recommended that it be changed to ‘show good reason’. That was because there is also another test, the exceptional circumstances test.
Under the changes passed by the Parliament in the Bail Amendment (Stage One) Bill we now have compelling reason and exceptional circumstances tests which are fairly similar in the bar they impose. What the Honourable Paul Coghlan was saying was that people do not understand what ‘show cause’ means—this is avery technical, jargonistic term—whereas ‘show good reason’ is very plain English, and that is all he was recommending. He was not recommending altering the bar, he was recommending saying it in plain English.

The Greens put forward an amendment proposing that the changes around unacceptable risk, which will be the first test applied to all people applying for bail, as well as the exceptional circumstances be included in the first
bill, but they were not successful. Those changes appear in this bill but they should have been in the first bill. But, as I say, it does not matter because the provisions in the first bill have not been enacted in any case. In a practical sense they will come into play at the same time.

What has not been done is the recommendation by the Honourable Paul Coghlan that in order to properly reform the bail system we need to work at both ends. While these two bills look at the area of seriousoffences and serious offenders and how bail will apply in that regard, it does not do anything with regard to the other recommendations put forward by the Honourable Paul Coghlan to remove a number of minor offences, including minor indictable offences, from the bail system. As he said in his review, reforms arising from these changes are likely to increase the number of prisoners on remand, and he was concerned about that. That is why he recommended that, at the same time that the serious offences end is tightened up, there be changes at the other end with regard to minor offences so we do not have more and more people on remand who are not a potential health and safety risk to the

In his overview of the second advice to the government, he claimed that more and more prisoners are being held on remand. He said that:"If prisoners are not produced, then their cases are often put off. Costs may be directly incurred and the need to return to court on multiple occasions can be inefficient and costly… It has been well understood for many years that much is to be gained in the criminal justice system by early resolution."

He said that a:
"… large number of warrants are issued in the Magistrates Court each year (about 60 000 in 2016). These warrants are for the arrest of accused who do not answer bail and for those who do not answer summons when the court is unable to deal with the matter or takes the view that it is inappropriate… He said that it is likely that the majority of these cases are offenders at the ‘lower end of seriousness’ and that their offending would not in fact result in a custodial sentence once the matter goes to court."

He said:
"I recommend that a new process be developed for dealing with these less serious offences. The successful operation of this process will depend on amending the law to allow some indictable offences to be dealt with in the absence of the accused. That is not possible now because an indictable offence can only be dealt with by a magistrate in the presence of the accused and with their consent."

As he noted:
"… a large number of warrants are also issued for accused who fail to answer a summons. A reasonably high percentage of these are for indictable offences at the lower end of the range. Such offences could properly be dealt with in the absence of the accused."

He said the changes he recommended:
"… should reduce the number of people on bail and therefore less warrants may issue as a result of failure to answer bail. Allowing some indictable offences to be dealt with in the absence of the accused should also reduce the number of warrants for cases in which a summons was issued."

He went on to say:
"If less warrants are issued, then less court time and police time will be taken to deal with those warrants, and less custodial places will be required. That should have some positive effect on the numbers in police cells."

He said he had also:
"… looked at the operation of the court integrated services program (CISP). Even a moderate increase of about 200–300 extra CISP places would take significant pressure away from the remand system."

He made further recommendations with regard to CISP.

He went on to say:
"The trial of the night court has been limited because of the available resources, including the lack of prosecutors or legal aid lawyers. There is a strong argument to say that a bail & remand court should ordinarily sit from about
9.00 a.m. to 10.00 p.m.…"

and he made recommendations about how that could be done.

He said that:
"The court could deal with many bail applications during these hours (and also finalise some matters) particularly with an
increased use of audiovisual links."

I actually raised the issue of the night court in the recent financial hearings held by the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee, and I was advised that the night court trial has been running from 4.00 p.m. to 9.00 p.m. but that it is still not fully operational.

Justice Coghlan also said that in terms of introducing the changes that are introduced by the stage 1 bill and the stage 2 bill they should not be introduced without these other changes, removing the minor offences from the bail system and having fully operational bail and remand courts. He said that would only leave the period from 10.00 p.m. to 9.00 a.m. when there was not a court available and that of course we still do have bail justices available. I am concerned that in some way this bill is not making full use of bail justices, in particular clause 14, with the proposed new police remand section, which I will return to in the moment.

He said he received submissions:
"… from the Office of Public Prosecutions (Victoria) and the commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions about appeals to the Supreme Court… The first relates to staying a decision of magistrates or judges to grant bail, and the second relates to the test to be applied."

He said that consultation on these issues would be further required, particularly in relation to the appeals test, and he made recommendations on the information that should be provided to any bail decision-maker.

The last thing he said in his overview was that the Bail Act needs to be rewritten. This was outside his terms of reference, but it does. As I said, what we have here is a pile of amendments that were passed earlier in the Parliament but have not come into play, and another pile of amendments that in some ways amend the current act and in some ways amend the amendments that have not come into play. It may be possible for the government, the Office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel and the departmental advisers to get their heads around all of these, but I have to say I found it very difficult to follow and make sense of what was going on with amendments to the act and amendments to the amendments that have not even come into play yet.

That brings me to the amendments put forward by Mr Rich-Phillips. The Greens will not be supporting the amendments, and in fact we would be suggesting that the government come back with a stage 3 bill that implements the other recommendations made by the Honourable Paul Coghlan, which are to unplug the bottlenecks at the minor end of the system. That would then provide a more balanced approach to bail in this state.

Those who deal with these issues on a day-to-day basis, including, for example, the Law Institute of Victoria, say we need to remember that bail reform should proceed from an understanding and appreciation of an ever-increasing adult prison and youth detention population as well as an increasing proportion of incarcerated people being remandees—that is, people who have not been convicted of any crime. We need to bear that in mind. More and more people who are incarcerated in police cells, in youth justice centres, in the Metropolitan Remand Centre and now in the new Ravenhall Correctional Centre are in fact remandees. They make up a higher proportion of people incarcerated than has been the case before. This is not a good thing. Cracking down on those accused of serious offences is a good thing, and nobody has any argument with that, but it is not a good thing to have more and more people who are alleged to have committed serious offences and who are not a risk to the community to be on remand. We need to be doing what the Honourable Paul Coghlan recommended and start to reform that part of the system.

In addition to the costs that it imposes on the community, remand also has significant negative social consequences for those who are on remand, including loss of employment and housing and loss of contact with their wider support network and family and friends. These are widely recognised as protective factors in countering the risks of recidivism. Finally, there is also the exposure to a high-risk, unstable and volatile prison population that increases
the risk of recidivism. What I think people mean by that is that when you are a person on remand, you have been charged with an offence but you have not been convicted of an offence. If in fact you are not guilty of
that offence, it is difficult if you have to spend a long time on remand. If your matter comes to court and you do not actually receive a custodial sentence—that is, you receive a fine or a community correction order— that is also very difficult. These are some of the many reasons that we need to make sure that people who are held on remand are people who are actually a risk to the community. I think we should be reducing the percentage of the prison population that are remandees, not increasing it, which is what these two measures will do.

There is a financial and social impact on the community of continually increasing the prison population and the number of unsentenced prisoners in incarceration. A reform that reduces the availability of bail will not make the community any safer, nor will it be a long-term solution to real or perceived problems with the bail system. That is the context in which I see the bail bills that have come before us. As I have said, no-one has any argument with tightening up the serious end of the scale. The government has not taken the opportunity to implement all of the reforms recommended by the Honourable Paul Coghlan, QC. I turn to some of the provisions that the bill introduces.

I note that clause 7 reinforces the general entitlement to bail unless there are risks to the community, and those are set out in terms of the unacceptable risk test, the show compelling reason test and the exceptional circumstances test, which I have already mentioned. The bill adds a new section 3AAA, which refers to surrounding circumstances to the Bail Act and includes a list of more detailed factors that bail decision-makers should consider in applying the unacceptable risk test, the exceptional circumstances test and the show compelling reason test.

The bill introduces a new section 3AAAA, which provides a definition of a vulnerable adult. Mr Rich-Phillips raised this issue, and this issue has been raised with the Greens by a number of stakeholders who deal with these issues all the time and deal with vulnerable adults. Concerns have been raised, so I will join with Mr Rich-Phillips in questioning the minister about that new section when we get to the committee stage of this bill.

Can I say, just to reinforce my point, that the Bail Act does need to be rewritten. When we get to the stage where we have sections called 3AAA and 3AAAA, it is getting very unwieldy in terms of the numbering of the sections. That is just another flag as to why this particular act should be rewritten. The opportunity to do that should have been taken by the government. As I mentioned before, the bill rewords and essentially reorders the unacceptable risk test to emphasise the importance of the consideration of the potential risk that an accused may pose to community safety. That is similar to the amendments that I moved to the stage one bill, so we are supportive of that.

The bill requires that a person who is already on two undertakings of bail with respect to indictable offences must be brought before a court for bail in relation to any further offending comprised of a relevant schedule 2 offence. That will exclude children, Aboriginal persons and vulnerable adults. That is reasonably in line with what the Honourable Paul Coghlan says. It sounds tough, but it is riddled with problems, which I will turn to in a little

The bill provides police with the power under clause 14 to remand an accused who is classified in schedule 1 by way of multiple low-level offences. That means they have not actually committed a schedule 1 offence—
they have not actually committed a serious offence, as defined under schedule 1—but that they are classified in schedule 1 because they are alleged to have committed a number of minor, low-level offences.
I think this is very problematic because there is not only that; this clause does not allow the accused to be able to make further application to a bail justice until a court is available to hear his or her bail application. Under this new police remand system an accused will be required to be brought before a court as soon as practicable or, if impracticable, to a bail justice within 48 hours.

I have a lot of concerns about this clause. In fact I do not support this clause. In his second-reading speech the Attorney-General said that this is a similar recommendation to recommendation 29(d) of the Honourable Paul Coghlan in his second advice to government.

In fact recommendation 29(d) says:
"(d) That once the bail & remand court is fully operational—"

it is not—
"(i) senior police members be able to remand adult accused (except for vulnerable adults) overnight…"

Not for 48 hours. Coghlan is very specific about police remand only applying under these conditions as a means of clarifying police power to hold an accused. Further, he does not mention anything about police remand applying for accused escalated to schedule 1 by   virtue of multiple low-level offences. In fact the initial stages of his second advice are all about how minor offences, including some indictable offences, should be reassessed so that the police and courts do not have to   deal with them. This means they can spend more time on serious issues such as determining bail for those accused of serious offences. The only similarities   between the police remand system in this bill and the one proposed by Coghlan is the name ‘police remand’.     

The Greens and those who deal with these issues on a   daily basis have serious concerns about this system for   many other reasons. The government has not outlined   why their vision of police remand is necessary to make better bail decisions or protect the public. In fact it appears to further complicate the Bail Act and will   further clog the courts. The government is proposing a 48-hour remand system, and Mr Mulino mentioned that is a government decision; it is not following the recommendation of the Honourable Paul Coghlan. It is proposing a 48-hour remand system that it acknowledges will be obsolete once the proper bail and remand court is operational, in which case the next sitting date or overnight, as Coghlan advises, will be appropriate. This seems an excessive power given that   it does not seem to resolve an existing problem. At the   moment, an accused should be brought before a court or a bail justice as soon as is practicable.     

The government proposes protections for vulnerable   persons, who will likely be a very high proportion of those charged under this system—that is, people with lots of minor offences are likely to be in fact vulnerable   people. It does not seem particularly logical that the   same decision-maker who has denied bail and held a prisoner on remand must also assess whether a person is exempt from this remand under the vulnerable person exemption. I do not believe it is appropriate that a bail decision-maker be determining an exemption to their own decision, in terms of the police. I see this as a conflict. Also, a vulnerable person is less likely to question or raise a complaint about being held on remand, and for this reason there must be some type of independent, trained third party such as a bail justice to  determine vulnerability. 

The other mystifying part of this is clause 14(7) where, if the person who is on police remand after 48 hours has not been able to be brought before the court, they can   be brought before a bail justice. My question is: why not bring them before the bail justice straightaway or as soon as is practicable? Why wait 48 hours and then say   the person can be brought before a bail justice? It really is a very concerning clause to add to this bill, and completely unnecessary. Other problems associated with this police remand clause are that the government is reliant on the police law enforcement assistance program (LEAP) system and also the after-hours mental health portal, which is currently being rolled out as an adequate reference to   determine vulnerability. The government relies on a system that is known to be flawed and another that is not yet online. Many reviews and inquiries have been in agreement that vulnerable people need special provisions within the justice system and particularly when being detained or potentially being detained.     

Failure to provide these protections can have catastrophic consequences on the lives of these persons. The LEAP system was described in one submission to   the Coghlan review as totally inadequate and as failing   the duty of care to vulnerable persons and was identified in recommendation 34 of Coghlan’s second advice as in need of review. Coghlan’s notes on the many limitations of the LEAP system, in his second advice, included the fact that it seemed largely up to the   individual police officers to note issues such as specific mental health issues, prescription medication issues, acquired brain injuries, substance abuse problems or co-morbidity issues in the system and therefore flag   these to decision-makers. This system must be fixed and well tested before it can be relied on to protect the vulnerable. If the police get it right in identifying the vulnerable person and that person is not remanded, that is good. The problem occurs when the police get it wrong and the vulnerable person is remanded for 48 hours. That is where the problem lies. The problems with the system, which are well-known and acknowledged, add to the problems with this particular clause.     

On page 63 of his second advice, the Honourable Paul  Coghlan said:  

"It is clearly problematic that bail decision-makers may not   have up-to-date information on previous bail matters when   deciding whether to grant or refuse bail. This is particularly so   given the concerns I have described about accused on   multiple bails."     

He says:  

"Currently, bail decisions made by police, bail justices or   courts must still be faxed to the Central Data Entry Bureau   (CDEB) by police and manually inputted onto LEAP. For example, in relation to grants of bail by courts, the prosecutor must fill out a form and fax it to CDEB, where a data entry   operator then inputs the information onto LEAP. A prosecutor may have 30 or 40 forms to fill out after a day in court, and each bail undertaking may have multiple conditions. Accordingly, these processes can result in delays in relevant information appearing on LEAP, and increase the chance of data entry errors."     

It is a very problematic clause and unnecessary clause. Another clause that causes me some concerns is clause 20, which requires that a person who is already on two undertakings of bail with respect to indictable offences must be brought before a court for bail in relation to any further offending comprised of a   relevant schedule 2 offence, excluding children, Aboriginal persons and vulnerable adults. This clause is analogous to recommendation 15 of the Honourable Paul Coghlan’s first advice, and  notwithstanding the concerns around vulnerable persons which I have been talking about, could be supported by the Greens because it does what these bail reforms should do: it identifies the serious and repeat offenders for more stringent bail hearings.  

However, I do have concerns with this clause as it  ignores the other vital aspect of bail reform identified   by the Honourable Paul Coghlan in his recommendation 16, which was supported by the government—that is, to enact his recommendation the government must first release pressure on the courts and police by finding alternative methods of dealing with lower level offenders, as discussed at length in his second advice. The government has therefore reneged on its support for recommendation 16 to first find methods of dealing with low-level offenders. In fact I think I will just read those recommendations into the record:     

"Recommendation 15:  That any accused who is already on two undertakings of bail with respect to indictable offences should not be able to be granted bail by a police officer or bail justice in relation to a further indictable offence, but must be brought before a court for the question of bail or remand to be determined.

Recommendation 16: That implementation of recommendation 15 be deferred   pending reforms relating to after-hours remand courts and alternative methods of dealing with lower level offenders…"     

That is not what the government is doing here, and we are going to end up with more and more people accused of lower level offences who are not a risk to the community being remanded in custody. If you actually look at the Honourable Paul Coghlan’s second advice in its entirety you can glean the logical order that he recommends for bail reform. Firstly, fix the system so that minor offences are not clogging up the justice system; secondly, provide more and diverse Courts Integrated Services Program staff training for bail decision-makers and Victoria Legal Aid to help reduce repeat offenders and contact with the courts altogether; and thirdly, properly establish a quick bail and remand court so an accused can receive a bail hearing in a timely manner. Sadly the Bail Amendment (Stage One) Bill and the Bail Amendment (Stage Two) Bill do not achieve this, and it is really very important that this be achieved. 

The Honourable Paul Coghlan, like the police, Victoria Legal Aid, the Victorian Law Reform Commission and just about everyone who works in the system, knows that from a practical point of view putting more and more people on remand for minor offences will actually lead to a more fractured system and could lead either to the release of people on bail due to the incapacity to hold accused people in court cells, police cells or the remand centre, or to delays that lead to people on remand being released under appeal. 

There are some problematic clauses in this bill, as I have outlined, and there is the bigger problem that nowhere in either of these bills presented by the government with regard to changes to the bail system is there anything regarding the reform of bail for those accused of minor offences so that those people who are not a risk to the community are not remanded in custody and can therefore continue in employment, continue to live at home and still be required to appear at court to have their matter heard. The Honourable Paul Coghlan recommends that in some cases where they do not appear at court the Magistrates Court should discontinue issuing the large number of warrants that it does—taking up the courts time and taking up the time of police for minor offences—and simply just hear those matters without the accused being there. Then those can be followed up after the appropriate sentence has been imposed. As I mentioned before, in many of those minor offence cases the accused will not receive a custodial sentence, and it is unjust to have people incarcerated when the final sentence for the matter will not be a custodial sentence and they are not posing a risk to the community. 

While we do support changes to the bail system with regard to serious offences, they have to be balanced by changes to the bail system for the minor offences, and that is not occurring under either of these bills. I really urge the government—before we get to the commencement dates for these bills, which I am happy to support as they are—to bring in some changes to deal with that lower level offending as recommended by the Honourable Paul Coghlan and to make the bail system fairer and more workable for the courts, for the police, for the duty lawyers and everybody else, including the offenders and victims of crime. That is the way we will achieve more improved public safety and reduce recidivism by offenders and alleged offenders. We do need to come to a situation where we have a lower percentage of people—not more, not a growing percentage of people but a reducing percentage of people—who are incarcerated who are actually only accused of a crime and not convicted of a crime.

In Committee: 

Minister, you mentioned in your summing up, briefly, the reasons why the government has not undertaken a complete rewrite of the Bail Act 1977, which was recommended by the Honourable Paul Coghlan, QC. In fact the whole of chapter 7 of his second advice is devoted to this. Without going through everything that is written there, in his first advice he recommended that: “…the Bail Act as a whole should be overhauled and rewritten to improve its internal consistency and to add to comprehension.” Given that vast changes have happened to the purpose of bail, Mr Coghlan was saying that originally the Bail Act anticipated granting bail for accused people awaiting trial, but now there are so many changes that the Bail Act is not internally consistent or easy to follow in comparison to, for example, the rewrite of the New South Wales act. Given that he said elsewhere, particularly in his first advice, that bail decision-makers and those in the system find the particular references to the Magistrates Court Act 1989, the Criminal Procedure Act 2009, the Bail Act et cetera are very difficult to follow, why did the government not take this opportunity, with all these significant changes, to rewrite the act?

Minister, I thank you for your answer. I do take issue with it because in fact we have taken quite a long time with the Bail Amendment (Stage One) Bill 2017 and the Bail Amendment (Stage Two) Bill 2017. As I mentioned in my contribution, these bills are adding different tranches of amendments to the existing act and are still having the act refer to other acts. Paul Coghlan, QC, said it is getting very confusing for people to follow. I pointed out that we now have clauses called 3AAAA, and whenever you get to a stage where an act has clauses numbered in that regard it is a signpost that the act needs to be overhauled. I would also say that in his chapter he gives a lot of hints as to what could be done. I suppose this is more a response to your answer. I cannot see in the time that has elapsed why we could not have in fact rewritten the whole act to make it easier to follow, because one of the problems is it is difficult for decision-makers to follow all the convoluted bits and pieces and paths and referrals in the act as it stands, which have only been exacerbated by these changes to the existing provisions. I also say that we are just looking at the moment at a complete rewrite of the Audit Act 1994, and if that was possible, this would have been possible too. Will the government consider actually rewriting the act so that it is easier for all concerned to follow the procedures?  Given what the minister has just said about the dependence of the two bills on each other, the question does arise as to why the commencement date of this bill is not the same as the commencement date of the stage one bill so that all the provisions come into play at the same time.

Minister, just on that particular issue, as I mentioned earlier, I think the problem is not necessarily when the police person gets it correct, it is when they get it incorrect that the problem occurs and the person is held in custody for 48 hours. You mentioned the inquiry into Aboriginal deaths in custody et cetera. You mentioned the requirement to call in the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service. Would that have to happen if anybody stated they were an Aboriginal person?

In terms of identifying a child, perhaps it is easier, but with a vulnerable adult, which is defined in new section 3AAAA, will there be a requirement for the police to bring in an independent person to assist with the assessment as to whether someone is a vulnerable adult, or is that completely up to the police officer?  Thank you, Minister, for your answer. As I mentioned in my contribution just earlier, the problem occurs when a mistake is made in the assessment of the person. I presume there is nothing precluding a police officer from calling in an independent person to assist with establishing whether someone is a vulnerable adult. Of course a vulnerable adult may not be able to fully advocate for themselves because they are a vulnerable adult, ipso facto, really. The government has relied on the law enforcement assistance program (LEAP) database and the forthcoming mental health assessment—I have forgotten what it is called exactly—online information site. Is the government able to assure us that these things are fully operational? Have the very widely known and very longstanding problems with the LEAP database been fixed?  Thank you, Minister, for your answer. It is a difficult area with significant repercussions for vulnerable people who are caught up in the justice system. I do not necessarily want to labour this point any further. You have said that the police are in the process of fixing it. It is not fixed yet. Perhaps it will be in three months. I was scrambling around to try to find the name of the other online information regarding mental health assessments, and I cannot remember the name of it, but that is also I understand coming online soon. I just want to point out one other reason why this act needs to be rewritten.

To read more from this Committee click here.