Justice Legislation Amendment (Victims) Bill 2017 | Sue Pennicuik

Justice Legislation Amendment (Victims) Bill 2017

I am pleased to speak today on the Justice Legislation Amendment (Victims) Bill 2017. This is an omnibus bill which makes a number of amendments to a number of acts, chiefly the Crimes Act 1958, the Sentencing Act 1991, the Criminal Procedure Act 2009 and the Victims of Crime Assistance Act 1996.
Tuesday, February 20, 2018 - 9:15am
Sue Pennicuik

Ms PENNICUIK (Southern Metropolitan) — I am pleased to speak today on the Justice Legislation Amendment (Victims) Bill 2017. This is an omnibus bill which makes a number of amendments to a number of acts, chiefly the Crimes Act 1958, the Sentencing Act 1991, the Criminal Procedure Act 2009 and the Victims of Crime Assistance Act 1996.

The main amendments that are made by this bill are to introduce in certain hearings the use of intermediaries and also of ground rules. An intermediary is an officer of the court who is appointed by the court to assist in the facilitation of witnesses' understanding of the proceedings and understanding of the questions that are being asked of them and thereby to assist the conduct of the proceedings in the court to make sure it is more efficient and also more fair. The person appointed as an intermediary is an officer of the court and is there to assist the court; they are not an advocate for the witness. They will have a duty under the bill to act impartially.

Ground rules hearings will come into play whenever an intermediary is appointed and also in other circumstances such as where vulnerable witnesses are involved and the judicial officers, the intermediary and the lawyers will establish ground rules for the proceedings in a way to again assist the efficiency of those proceedings and hopefully to result in a fairer outcome for all involved.

The bill also makes amendments to the Crimes Act in relation to the retention of forensic information, particularly DNA and fingerprints from juveniles. It makes an amendment to the existing provisions whereby the fingerprints and DNA of a juvenile must be destroyed once that person has achieved the age of 26 years unless that person has been convicted of another indictable crime with a maximum penalty of 15 years imprisonment. This bill adds certain offences to the list of exemptions that already exist.

The bill makes some reforms to sexual offence laws and amends a number of acts to ensure that consistent treatment is given to sexual offences and victims of sexual offences. It makes it a crime to fail to disclose information leading to a reasonable belief that a sexual offence has been committed against a child under 16 and amends and broadens the definition of sexual offences in the Criminal Procedure Act 2009.

The bill also removes the ability of offenders in child sex offence cases to introduce a good character consideration as a mitigating circumstance against their offending. This is because often such offenders will use their so-called good character or good reputation in order to insinuate their way into the victim's confidence in order to commit the offence. This is a provision that has been recommended by several parties, and we are happy to support it.

The bill also includes a historical offence of indecent assault upon a male within part 2A of the Sentencing Act. This will not capture activities that once were offences but, given the passage of recent laws, are actions that are lawful today.

The bill excludes adult victims from the restriction on the publication of proceedings contained in section 534 of the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005. I was listening to what Mr Rich-Phillips had to say about that particular provision in the bill. We will have some questions in committee on this provision. The government is saying this will assist victims, and Mr Rich-Phillips has said that too, to share their stories as victims — and these are victims that are adult victims. Under the existing provision there are restrictions on the publication of any information from proceedings where the offender is a child so that the child offender is not identified.

This provision does amend the existing provision — section 534 — under the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005. I have some questions about that particular provision, which we have been looking at more closely just recently.

In response to what Mr Rich-Phillips was saying about that — he was basically saying that in terms of cases where the offender is a child, he is not necessarily of the view that their identity be protected — of course it is a longstanding practice in the criminal law to protect the identity of child offenders, mainly because they are children and children are very different from adults and the law recognises that, and also in the regard that one of the primary considerations, apart from community safety et cetera, is the rehabilitation of that young person and the ability for them to proceed further into their life and not reoffend. That in fact is why the previous provision that I was referring to with the retaining of forensic information also exists such that if a young person does not reoffend, that forensic information is destroyed — and in fact must be destroyed — under the act.

The bill also amends the time limits under the Victims of Crime Assistance Act 1996 to remove the limitation period on child abuse victims who are seeking financial compensation through the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal, and of course I think that is a provision that everybody would wholeheartedly welcome.

They are the main provisions in the bill. As I said, we have some questions regarding the safeguards as to the identity of young offenders with the new section 534A that is to be inserted into the act by this bill, and we also have some questions with regard to the broadening or the addition of certain sexual offences into the Criminal Procedure Act, in particular the offences listed in the Sex Work Act 1994, just to clarify the intent of that and that it covers, as I can see, two main classes of offences — that is, offences against children; and offences against any person, or a person aged over 18, which involve threatening, intimidating behaviour or violence against that person, who may be a sex worker who is an adult. I just wanted to clarify some of those provisions that are inserted by clause 12 of the bill. The questions that I will have in committee will be on clauses 12 and 24 of the bill. With those remarks, the Greens look forward to the committee stage.

In committee:

Ms PENNICUIK  — Clause 12 of the bill substitutes a new section 4 of the Criminal Procedure Act 2009. The new section 4 is headed 'Meaning of sexual offence' and it adds a range of sexual offences to the Criminal Procedure Act. I am particularly interested in the offences that are being added under new section 4(1)(a)(iii), which are those that relate to the Sex Work Act 1994, as I mentioned in my contribution to the second-reading debate. As I look at those sections of the Sex Work Act listed — sections 5(1), 6(1), 7(1), 8(1), 9(1) and 11(1) — sections 5 to 7 relate to children and the others relate to adults and make it an offence under the Sex Work Act to assault, intimate, threaten or offer drugs to a person. In brief, those are the offences.

Minister, if I can refer you to the following page and new subsection (2). It states that:

An offence against a provision of the Sex Work Act 1994 that is not referred to in subsection (1)(a)(iii) is not a sexual offence.

My question basically is: can you clarify for the record that this particular section just transfers those particular offences under the Sex Work Act into the Criminal Procedure Act as sexual offences?

To read more in the committee stage click here.