Corrections Legislation Miscellaneous Amendment Bill 2017 | Sue Pennicuik

Corrections Legislation Miscellaneous Amendment Bill 2017

The bill — for the first time in Australia, we are told — prohibits intentionally or recklessly operating remotely piloted aircraft and helicopters or drones and the possession of remotely piloted aircraft at or in the vicinity of prisons; residential facilities, like Corella Place; and youth justice facilities unless there is a reasonable excuse.
Tuesday, June 6, 2017 - 9:00am
Sue Pennicuik

Ms PENNICUIK (Southern Metropolitan) — The Greens will be supporting the Corrections Legislation Miscellaneous Amendment Bill 2017, which involves quite detailed changes to the Corrections Act 1986 in relation to prohibiting drones near detention facilities. There are also changes in relation to parole for certain offences and important changes to the Serious Sex Offenders (Detention and Supervision) Act 2009 (SSODSA) in relation to supervision orders and police powers for auditing electronic devices.

The bill — for the first time in Australia, we are told — prohibits intentionally or recklessly operating remotely piloted aircraft and helicopters or drones and the possession of remotely piloted aircraft at or in the vicinity of prisons; residential facilities, like Corella Place; and youth justice facilities unless there is a reasonable excuse. This attracts a two-year maximum penalty, and the offence is to fly at or below 400 feet, or approximately 120 metres, above such a facility. As Mr O'Donohue outlined, that is the difference between the state jurisdiction and federal jurisdiction with regard to airspace above detention facilities. A person can be ordered to leave the neighbourhood of a prison if there are reasonable grounds to believe that they have contravened this provision, attracting a maximum penalty of five penalty units.

I note that the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee in its comments on the bill — and the minister may wish to clarify this — asked the government for further information about the meaning of the terms 'near' and 'neighbourhood' in clauses 4, 42, 64 and existing section 45(2), as the provisions are with regard to a corrections officer being able to order anyone 'near' a corrections facility to leave the 'neighbourhood' in some circumstances and clause 5(2) permitting prison officers to search any thing or person 'near' some prisons in some circumstances.

This offence is in response to the problem of contraband entering prisons and the fact that drones present a serious risk in this respect as they can be used to smuggle in contraband such as drugs, weapons and even mobile phones. They have been detected near a number of prisons, including the Melbourne Assessment Prison and the three prisons in Ravenhall — the Metropolitan Remand Centre, the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre and the new Ravenhall prison. It is noteworthy that the justice secretary of the United Kingdom presented a blueprint for prison reform which includes the introduction of no-fly zones to stop drones dropping drugs and other contraband into jail grounds. Such legislation has also been introduced into the North Carolina legislature, and six other states in the United States already have similar bans around prisons and jails.

The bill also expands the search and seizure powers in the Corrections Act, the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 and SSODS act to encompass where the new offence under section 32A involving operating or attempting to remotely pilot an aircraft or helicopter is reasonably believed to have been committed or is being committed — clause 5 for searches and clause 6 for seizure under the Corrections Act — and these amendments are mirrored in the other acts to cover detention facilities for youths and for serious sex offenders. So if a person is believed on reasonable grounds to have contravened section 32A(1), then in conducting a search of the area outside the prison an escort officer or prison officer may search and examine that person, including anything belonging to or in the possession of the person, including the person's vehicle, and can seize anything found which the officer believes on reasonable grounds will afford evidence of the commission of an offence against that section.

With regard to the parole changes under the bill, it introduces stricter parole provisions into the Corrections Act for prisoners who have been convicted of aggravated home invasion, home invasion, aggravated carjacking, carjacking, terrorism and foreign incursion offences, and defensive homicide, which are grouped together as the relevant offences under clauses 8 and 9. Serious violent offenders and sexual offenders are treated differently — —

Business interrupted pursuant to standing orders.

Sitting extended pursuant to standing orders.

Ms PENNICUIK — Serious violent offenders and sexual offenders are treated differently from other prisoners for the purposes of parole. Section 74AAB of the Corrections Act creates the serious violent offender and sexual offender parole division of the parole board, which may only allow parole for this cohort of prisoners if another differently constituted division of the parole board has recommended parole be granted and the SSODS division has considered the recommendation. This separate division was established pursuant to recommendations made by the former High Court Justice Ian Callinan's review of the Victorian parole system.

Mr Finn — Acting President, I think it is disappointing that Ms Pennicuik does not have the audience she deserves, and I draw your attention to the state of the house.

Quorum formed.

Ms PENNICUIK — This separate division of the parole board was established pursuant to recommendations made by the former High Court Justice Ian Callinan's review of the Victorian parole system in July 2013. It was in fact introduced into the Parliament by the Corrections Amendment (Further Parole Reform) Bill 2014. At that time, in the debate on the Corrections Amendment (Breach of Parole) Bill 2013 I made the comment that to me it has always seemed that one of the basic problems is what appears to be a lack of separation of these types of offenders — that is, serious violent offenders or serious sex offenders — from the bulk of the prison population when considering parole. This is an issue that has been highlighted by Justice Ian Callinan and by Professor James Ogloff in their reports as well as by former Chief Commissioner of Police Ken Lay. And so it was that the deliberations of the parole board were changed in terms of dealing with applications for parole by serious violent offenders and sex offenders along with a lot of other changes to the parole system that have been made over the last few years.

If a serious violent offender or sexual offender is charged with a violent offence or sexual offence while on parole, the board must cancel their parole unless there are circumstances which justify the continuation of parole. If a serious violent offender or sexual offender is convicted of a violent offence or sexual offence while on parole, the prisoner's parole is automatically cancelled on their conviction. Clauses 8 and 9 of the bill extend the operation of these provisions to prisoners convicted of a relevant offence, and I mentioned what they were before.

These tighter parole laws for terrorist offences and aggravated home invasion and aggravated carjacking offences, whereby they are now considered serious violent offences, we do not oppose, given that offences similar to these are already covered under serious violent offences such as aggravated burglary and armed robbery. Members may remember that at the time when these new offences were introduced the Greens raised the concern that they were in fact introducing offences that already existed in the Crimes Act. We now have duplicated offences in the Crimes Act, and in fact different penalties apply to them. In particular mandatory minimum sentences apply to the newer offences. The Greens are not opposing these provisions of the bill, but at the same time we would always take the opportunity to say that the government must ensure that it is investing not only in rehabilitation programs for such offenders whilst they are in prison but also in secure housing and post-release programs to ensure that parole is not denied due to lack of housing and support services being available to people who are on parole and that that is not a reason for denying parole.

The bill also amends the supervision order regime under the SSODS act, including with respect to the review and renewal of orders and the core conditions attached to orders so that it is easier for courts to update them, and the reporting requirements on the use of force by supervision officers and other specified officers. The bill will insert an amendment allowing any core conditions of a supervision order or an interim supervision order to be updated without the requirement for the secretary to satisfy the legal test for leave currently set out in SSODSA.

This is because some serious sex offenders are not yet subject to the core conditions prohibiting violent offending and behaviour since the commencement of this community safety act, and the government wants them transitioned to the conditions prohibiting violent offending contained under that act as soon as possible.

The ability of the courts to update the core conditions of supervision orders without leave seems appropriate given the government's reasoning provided in the second-reading speech and in the interest of community safety, so the Greens will not oppose that provision either.

The final provision that I wanted to comment on is under clause 52, which inserts a new division 7A into the SSODSA, the purpose of which is to provide for the auditing of an offender's computer and other devices. These provisions apply if a supervision order contains a condition requiring an offender to comply with the directions of the adult parole board in relation to the auditing of computers and other devices in the possession of the offender. The offender must comply with the direction of the adult parole board to produce to an officer a computer or device that is in their possession or under their control. If the offender fails to comply with such a direction, proposed new section 158ED empowers an officer to enter any part of the property where the offender resides and search for anything belonging to the offender or in their possession or under their control. We are supportive of that provision as well.

I also want to comment on the provisions to broaden information sharing to promote consistency between the Corrections Act and the SSODSA — for example, information sharing to facilitate the delivery of mental health services to prisoners and offenders under clause 11. The bill expands the ground to use or disclose personal or confidential information about prisoners, parolees, offenders and former offenders. Information sharing will be permitted where it is reasonably necessary for a person to perform their official duties for the purpose of corrections-related legislation. It is important that this sort of information is shared, and certainly some recent events have highlighted the need for that sharing. In fact we have seen the role that the lack of that sharing of information between relevant agencies played in some recent events in New South Wales in particular but also in Victoria with regard to prisoners or people released from prison who had ongoing mental health issues and were not receiving the appropriate care, support and programs post-release to assist them in reintegrating into the community and not reoffending. For people in prison, in post-sentence residential facilities or on parole, and even after their parole period has been served and they are living in the community, it is these types of programs of ongoing support that are often needed, particularly if they have been in contact with the justice system over a long period of time, if they have ongoing mental health issues or if they have ongoing drug and alcohol problems.

We have heard a lot today about community safety and how we handle community safety, and we need these types of programs and also programs of justice reinvestment in communities. We can identify the communities where most offenders come from. We know that about half of all offenders come from about six postcodes in Melbourne. Justice reinvestment means putting money back into those communities, identifying the problems that those communities are having and putting in place programs to assist the people in those communities — particularly young people, but all people — to overcome the problems they are experiencing in their communities and to lift those communities out of the disadvantage they may be experiencing and thereby enhance committee safety. That is where we should be putting taxpayers money and the attention of government. I know that the government is paying some attention to this, but looking at overseas experience we could really increase the amount of attention and resources that are put towards justice reinvestment. That is how communities will become safer.