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Bail Powers ACT

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October 19, 2016

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Bail is one of the most contentious issues in the criminal-justice system. On one hand, the community demands protection from those who might commit offences. On the other, it supports the presumption of innocence. It is always a balancing act. The ACT Government has plans to go out on a limb and introduce a bail regime that would give the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions extraordinary powers, particularly the ability to keep a person in gaol even though a court had said they should be free. Both the ACT […]


Consorting Laws – ACT

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October 14, 2016

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The ACT’s status as one of only two states or territories with a Human Rights Act or Charter has saved it – for now – from a harsh new regime of consorting laws. Consorting laws make associating with certain classes of people unlawful, punishable by prison, and they give police broad discretion about who is allowed to contact who. NSW adopted a tough revamp of its consorting laws in 2012 – and the ACT was set to introduce something similar when outgoing Attorney-General Simon Corbell issued a recent discussion paper. The […]


ACT Police chases

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September 30, 2016

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Police chases have been controversial for a long time. On one hand, there is a view that police should do all in their capacity to stop offenders at all costs. On the other, it is said that no crime, and certainly not mere speeding, or driving unlicensed, or performing a burnout, should lead to the death of an invariably young offender. The ACT, where Labor governs with the support of one Green MP, is re-examing police chase guidelines and procedures. New protocols announced by the ACT Government and ACT Policing on […]


Sentencing Statistics in the ACT

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August 29, 2016

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Great care needs to be taken when using statistics during sentencing submissions at courts, as a recent ACT Court of Appeal judgment confirms. The old legal maxim that “every case turns on its own facts and circumstances” holds true as much today as when it was first uttered. The recent ACT decision dealt with a man convicted of driving a motor vehicle without consent, driving whilst disqualified, attempted burglary, attempted aggravated robbery, obstructing police, possessing an offensive weapon, theft, burglary and possessing an article with intent to use it in the […]


When is a gun not a gun?

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August 12, 2016

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When is a gun not a gun? The ACT Court of Appeal recently wrestled with this question in a judgment that has meant the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions has now discontinued a number of firearms cases against Canberrans. A Full Appeal Court (Refshauge, Burns and Wigney JJ) upheld a judgement of Justice Penfold, who had found in the Supreme Court that a replica or imitation firearm was not “a firearm” – despite the Firearms Act spelling out that “an imitation or replica of any firearm” was “a prohibited […]


Double Jeopardy Reforms

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July 25, 2016

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If you have ever seen the 1999 thriller ‘Double Jeopardy’ you may have an idea what is meant by the principle double-jeopardy. For those who are not Tommy Lee Jones fans, double jeopardy is the well-known legal principal that provides that no-one may be tried twice for an offence for which they have already been acquitted. Of course the movie has used some poetic licence for dramatic effect, but the basic principle that one cannot be tried twice for the same crime remains the same, and has done for centuries across […]


ACT Intensive Diversion Program

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July 4, 2016

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While many Australian States’ and Territories’ politicians continue to engage in legislative law-and-order auctions, it is refreshing to see one jurisdiction holding out. The ACT, notwithstanding that it is going to an election in October this year, has just introduced a program that hopes to break the offending cycle, but not by the blunt instrument of ever-longer mandatory sentences. ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell, who is not standing for re-election in October, has unveiled a new program that aims to reduce recidivism among young offenders and engage youths who are considered at-risk […]


Rehabilitation and courts

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June 30, 2016

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Two recent cases – one in Victoria and one in the ACT – show the very great importance that courts place on efforts made by offenders at rehabilitation. It is an area hard to underestimate for those awaiting sentence: it can mean the difference between going to prison or staying in the community. The offender in the Victorian case of Fattah v The Queen, had pleaded guilty to one charge of trafficking methamphetamine and was sentenced to three years and nine months’ imprisonment, with a non-parole period of two years. The […]


Dangerous and negligent driving

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June 17, 2016

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Matters of person-to-person violence, from one-punch laws through to other less serious offences, seem to dominate debate in parliaments and the media about punishment and sentencing across Australia’s states and territories. Yet it remains the fact that far more people die on Australia’s roads – with those involved often surprised when they are charged with criminal offences that carry prison terms. The Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics reported that there was a total of 112 road deaths in Australia in March 2016, up 6.5 per cent on that month’s […]


Changes to the Animal Welfare Act

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May 27, 2016

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Canberrans face prosecution if they fail to look after their pets in a revamp of the law to start from July 1.The new legislation makes it an offence to breach a duty of care to one's pet, where previously cruelty had to be proved. In March 2016, Minister for Transport and Municipal Services, Meegan Fitzharris, introduced the Animal Welfare Amendment Bill 2016 (‘the bill’) to the ACT Legislative Assembly. When introducing the bill, Minister Fitzharris stated changes to the Animal Welfare Act 1992 (‘the Act’) have been created “in order to […]

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