Debates Day 6 - Thursday 19 October 2017
Parliamentary Record 8
Debates for 13th Assembly 2016 - 2018; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 13th Assembly 2016 - 2020
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES Thursday 19 October 2017 2685 The current offences at section 81 and 84 have been combined into a single offence of making false claims as a public officer. New section 80 prohibits the same kind of conduct as the two existing offences. Section 80 deals with abuse of office through dishonesty. This offence criminalises deliberately providing, certifying or approving false documents that are prejudicial to a persons interests. It also criminalises falsifying government accounting records. The maximum penalty of three years imprisonment for these offences has been retained, noting that if false information is provided for the purpose of gain, the person can be charged with false accounting under section 233 of the Criminal Code, which carries a more serious maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment. Section 82 has also been updated. The new section 81 will cover the same matters as the existing offence at section 82 by continuing to make it an offence for a public officer to use their power arbitrarily to the detriment of another person. However, the existing offence does not cover deliberately prejudicial actions. The amended offence will apply to conduct that is a deliberate abuse of process, as well as to arbitrary conduct. All the offences amended are matters that will be able to be investigated by the ICAC as they fall within the definition of corruption under the ICAC Bill. The amendments are crucial to ensure the ICAC can conduct an investigation of these matters and there can be relevant prosecution as a result of the investigation. The government recognises that the scope of conduct covered by these offences is very broad, ranging from very serious corruption by experienced and senior persons to nave error of judgment by junior administrative officers. The maximum penalties for the most serious offences have been raised to reflect the seriousness of public sector corruption. At the same time, two safeguards have been put in place to prevent these offences working in unjust ways against conduct that is more suitable for performance management than criminal sanction. These safeguards will be inserted into section 75C and 75D of the Criminal Code. Section 75C(2) provides that before a jury can convict a person of one of the offences they must be satisfied that the conduct warrants criminal sanction. This test, which is derived from a similar provision in the equivalent South Australian legislati on, requires a jury to consider the following: what standard of conduct is reasonably expected of a person in a public officers position; whether the public officer honestly and reasonably believed they were doing the right thing; the seriousness of what they did; and whether the conduct was an isolated incident or part of a repeated course of conduct over time. Beyond preventing the unjust application of offences to minor offending, section 75C has an important role in keeping those offences aligned with community standards and public interest factors. When a court considers whether a public officer should be convicted of disclosing confidential information the court may, for example, decide to treat a disclosure of information for the purpose of malicious gossip differently from where the public interest information has been disclosed for the benefit of the community. Section 75D provides further safeguard that allows the court to dismiss a charge that is trivial or more technical. It is about sending a clear message that it is the governments intention that the time and resources of our ICAC, criminal courts, prosecutors and investigators be focused on serious corruption. The bill also makes a number of other amendments in relation to creation of the ICAC and the repeal of the Public Interest Disclosure Act. The bill: amends the Correctional Services Act to facilitate the ICACs access to correctional premises and to prisoners as required amends the Criminal Records (Spent Convictions) Act to provide the ICAC with access to information about spent convictions for the purpose of ensuring that the staff of the ICAC are suitable persons to be employed or engaged by the ICAC amends the Legislative Assembly (Disclosure of Interests) Act to provide for the ICAC to have access to the register of interests for the Legislative Assembly
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