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Debates Day 3 - Thursday 19 June 2003



Debates Day 3 - Thursday 19 June 2003

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Parliamentary Record 13


Debates for 9th Assembly 2001 - 2005; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 9th Assembly 2001 - 2005




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 - Thursday 19 June 2003 careful to ensure that the rights of the accused are being protected in our court system, in regard to very long traditions of finding a balance between the rights of those accused with the need to bring a crime investigation and subsequent court hearing to a conclusion. This bill is very much working at that boundary line between rights of the accused and the need to have an expedited court process that can bring court hearings to a successful conclusion one way or another. The bill itself simply introduces the use of certificates that can be presented in a court hearing, which basically attest to the integrity of the processes of analysis that goes on in forensic labs. We have left in the bill a very important protection that any accused, through their legal representation, can ask for all of the lab staff to be brought into court and give evidence as to exactly how they handled the analysis of a particular sample; to attest that there was continuity of the handling of that evidence and that, in fact, there was no switching of samples or some misanalysis of a particular sample. That protection is still there but, where both the defence and the prosecution agree, a certificate can be presented by the reporting scientist that can be used in lieu of having the staff come and directly give evidence. The member for Sanderson outlined what is to be included in those certificates. They give all the basic information that the court would need as to what was done with the sample as it went through the forensic labs. The amendments that we have introduced were as a result of representations from the member for Arafura - and I thank her for those - regarding the practicalities of the defence being able to gain the information on the certificate early enough so that it can take action to bring analysing staff into the court hearing. It also provides that the reporting scientist will, as a matter of course, be expected to be there unless both parties agree that the reporting scientist does not need to be at the hearing. It is giving more opportunity for the representatives of the accused to scrutinise the process of analysis that was carried out in the labs, if they so choose. If they are happy with what is on the certificate, the certificate itself will be all that is needed to present that part of the evidence. There are four amendments that will be introduced at committee stage. Before I finish this second reading debate, I would like to thank Peter Thatcher, who is the Senior Forensic Scientist with the NT government, for the very helpful briefing on the practicalities of what goes on in the labs with DNA analysis; and Helen Findlay who prepared the bill, including the amendments that were done at very short notice. It was very good to see that done so quickly. Madam Speaker, we will move to committee now and we will deal with these amendments. Motion agreed to; bill read a second time. In committee: Clauses 1 to 3, by leave, taken together and agreed to. Clause 4: Dr TOYNE: Mr Chairman, I move amendment 49.1, which substitutes a new section 24(3): (3) If a party intends to rely on the certificate, the party must (a) at least 15 business days before the hearing day, give a copy of the certificate to each other party; and (b) at the hearing, call the reporting scientist to give evidence unless the parties otherwise agree. Amendment agreed to. Dr TOYNE: Mr Chairman, I move amendment 49.2. This simply omits from section 24(5) the phrase, challenging the matter at the hearing of the proceeding, and substitutes the phrase the hearing day. Amendment agreed to. Dr TOYNE: Mr Chairman, I move amendment 49.3 which omits the original section 24(6) because it is now irrelevant because of changes made to 24(5). Amendment agreed to. Dr TOYNE: Mr Chairman, I move amendment 49.4, which inserts into section 24(12) a new definition: hearing day means the day fixed for the start o f the hearing o f a proceeding; Amendment agreed to. Clause 4, as amended agreed to. Remainder of the bill, by leave, taken as a whole and agreed to. Bill reported with amendments; report adopted. 4384