Territory Stories

Debates Day 1 - Tuesday 23 May 1995



Debates Day 1 - Tuesday 23 May 1995

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Parliamentary Record 11


Debates for 7th Assembly 1994 - 1997; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 7th Assembly 1994 - 1997




Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES - Tuesday 23 May 1995 During the 17 years of its existence, the department has grown from a provider primarily of legal services to providing significant community services. While it has always been responsible for the Offices of Public Trustee, Registrar-General and Business Affairs, the transfer of the Office of Consumer Affairs & Fair Trading to the department in October 1991 has brought substantial new community service obligations within departmental responsibilities. The creation of a statutory Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the new public sector agency of the Office of Courts Administration also changed the focus of the departments activities. The change of name to the Northern Territory Attorney-Generals Department indicates its shift away from being purely a legal department to its supporting the legal and community services that it now provides. It better describes the departments activities in 1995. The change of name also brings the Territory in line with most other jurisdictions in Australia where the description Attorney-General appears in the name of the department responsible for assisting the Attorney-General in carrying out his obligations. Further, the Statute Law Revision Bill amends the Sexual Offences (Evidence and Procedure) Act. The purpose of the amendment to section 4(5) of that act is to express in a better way an existing section, not to change the law. The common law of evidence requires the judge to warn the jury of the danger of convicting an accused on the uncorroborated evidence of unreliable witnesses. At common law, the class of unreliable witnesses included children, complainants of sexual offences and accomplices. The Sexual Offences (Evidence and Procedure) Amendment Act removed the complainant of a sexual assault from the class of unreliable witnesses. The drafting of section 4(5) was based on section 61 of the Crimes Act of Victoria and was basically identical to it. The effect of the 1994 amendment was to abolish the doctrine of corroboration, although the section does not expressly say this. However, as a matter of law, it is clear from section 4(5) and supporting Victorian case law that corroboration is no longer required. This was made clear by the Victorian Supreme Court in the 1988 case of Williams. Put simply, the removal of complainants from the class of unreliable witnesses means that there is no need to corroborate the complainants evidence. It is proposed to amend section 4(5)(a) to read: The judge shall not warn or suggest in any way to the jury that it is unsafe to convict on the uncorroborated evidence of the complainant because the law regards complainants as an unreliable class of witness. This amendment will make section 4(5) identical to section 9C of the Evidence Act which removed children from the class of unreliable witnesses and expressly abolished the doctrine of corroboration for children. Section 9C is based on the equivalent Western Australian provision and is considered to be a clearer draft. I commend the bill to honourable members. Debate adjourned. APPROPRIATION BILL 1995-96 (Serial 80) Continued from page 3466. Mr PERRON (Chief Minister): Mr Speaker, I wish to respond to some remarks by the Leader of the Opposition before addressing relevant matters in my own department. The Assembly is accustomed to hearing from the opposition - and probably expects it - doom and 3468