Territory Stories

Debates Day 1 - Tuesday 5 October 2004



Debates Day 1 - Tuesday 5 October 2004

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Parliamentary Record 22


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 - Tuesday 5 October 2004 increasing research that supports the view that the justice system should be improved. In that regard, before I get to my maiden speech, I will refer the Attorney-General to a relatively recent publication from the Victorian Law Reform Commission about sexual offences - the final report. The Chairperson of the inquiry was Professor Marcia Neave, a lecturer of mine at the University of Melbourne some years ago. I refer the Attorney-General to page 262 of that report, in which she states: Research shows that the provision o f support can be effective in minimising the trauma of giving evidence, improving the standard o f evidence, and increasing confidence in the criminal justice system. It may also assist in increasing reporting and conviction rates. Professor Marcia Neave is well respected, as is the work she undertakes for and on behalf of the Victorian Law Reform Commission. If the Attorney-General does not believe me, he should believe the likes of Marcia Neave and others. In any event, I now go back to my maiden speech, when I said: ... if a victim or a witness wants to be physically separated and protected from the accused, they should be allowed to do so as o f right. It is plainly wrong for a judge or a magistrate to disallow a witness or a victim physical protection from the offender when giving evidence if such person feels vulnerable. There should be no judicial discretion in this area. I can assure the government, and possibly some defence lawyers who are in the gallery this afternoon, that the safeguards already in place for the accused are adequate and do not warrant change. This proposal simply gives vulnerable witnesses and victims the opportunity for protection if they want it. I know of too many victims who have been prevented by a judge or magistrate from utilising the protection intended by the legislature. O f course, many crimes o f violence are perpetuated on women and children. It is an absurdity, is it not, that on the one hand, we as a community encourage women and children to report sexual and physical violence, yet on the other, we make the process o f giving evidence as intimidatory and as awful as possible? The amendments I have suggested are necessary. The benefits are immeasurable and the rights o f the accused are not compromised. These suggestions transcend party politics. The proposals are good law and good public policy. The amendments are simple and easy to achieve, and I urge the Attorney-General to implement them. I will say it again: by the time I am an old woman, that part of the Evidence Act will be fixed. I defy the Attorney-General - either in here, outside or anywhere - to tell me - and, oh God, I wish he would! - why he will not change this section. Give me a good reason and let us have a debate. Do not give me this nonsense about: Three years ago I was warm and fuzzy but now I may have changed a bit. Please tell me - informally; let us have a chat. Tell me why. I am yet to find a reason. It is not just me coming up with these suggestions, it is the likes of the Victorian Law Reform Commission, Marcia Neave and others. At least I have been consistent. The Attorney-General knows, along with my colleagues, that I do feel very strongly about this. In the overall scheme of things, it is not considered, I suppose, terribly significant by others. However, I can tell you that, for a number of victims and other vulnerable witnesses in the Northern Territory, it is an important issue. I have met them; I have acted for them; they still continue to speak to me about these issues. I say to the Attorney-General it is not just the member for Araluen or the CLP saying this; it is real. Again, I urge him to consider his position. With those comments I will conclude, Madam Speaker. Motion negatived. CRIMINAL CODE AMENDMENT BILL (Serial 212) Continued from 19 May 2004. Dr TOYNE (Justice and Attorney-General): Madam Speaker, the member for Macdonnell has two bills before the House relating to assaults upon emergency workers. The members bills are, unfortunately, deficient as they fail to capture a full range of conduct that could interfere with the work required to respond to an emergency situation. The real focus of the legislation that aims to provide better protection for those in our community performing an emergency response, and providing all necessary assistance to a person in need, must be a focus on the act of the assistance itself. Assaults that occur in the context of an emergency or a response to a life-threatening situation, have the potential to endanger not just the person responding to the situation but also the victim and other persons. 7793

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