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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 […]


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 […]


Domestic violence: Is it on the rise?

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May 6, 2016

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Domestic violence is undoubtedly one of the most publicised areas of crime in Australia, particularly in Canberra since the death of Tara Costigan at the hands of her partner. The issue is at the forefront of the minds of legislators and the Courts in the Australian Capital Territory. Recently the former federal Labor leader Mark Latham claimed domestic violence was actually decreasing since 2007. But do the figures add up? According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), there was a peak in domestic violence-related homicides in Australia in 2007, and […]


Nightclub Violence

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May 2, 2016

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Canberra is taking a very different course to Sydney in the nationwide fight against early-morning, alcohol-fuelled violence around inner-city nightclubs. While both the NSW and ACT governments are shaking up licensing laws, the ACT has steadfastly refused to copy NSW in introducing mandatory minimum sentences for one-punch assaults that lead to death. ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell said, “We know that increasing penalties does not prevent violence. People don't think about the penalty they're going to get when they're drunk and punch somebody." Mr Corbell has instead unveiled a revamp of liquor […]


ACT Infringement Notice changes

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April 11, 2016

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You might be familiar with the infringement-notice system for certain traffic matters. Where years ago you had to go to court for just about everything, including minor speeding matters for instance having smooth tyres or even a vehicle that created “undue noise”, now we have a relatively comprehensive system of traffic-infringement notices, issued on the spot by police. These allow, simply by the payment of the relevant fine, for the disposal of the matter. No longer do so many minor matters, most often speeding tickets, clog the courts – and force […]


Pill Testing

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March 24, 2016

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Emotions have run high about the issue of drugs in our community for a long time – with deeply held views often in conflict. The Howard Government held to a “zero-tolerance”, “tough-on-drugs” policy while other administrations in the states and territories instituted a “harm-minimisation” approach, including safe heroin-injecting rooms and the birth of drug courts, diverting offenders into rehabilitation rather than the harsher penalties provided under criminal law. The new battleground is the plethora of music festivals and what should be done about the multitude of drugs being found in searches […]


It was the best of times, it was the worst of times ….

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October 1, 2015

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“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times ….” Drink-drivers in Canberra and Queanbeyan (or any other NSW location for that matter) could be forgiven for thinking they were living in Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. Canberra’s drivers are simultaneously better off and worse off than their NSW counterparts under the ACT version of the Interlock scheme for drink-drivers, which was introduced in mid-2014. The Interlock device prevents a driver from starting his or her car until he or she has provided a clean breath […]


Ben Jefferson Salmon, QC, is retiring after 50 years of legal practice

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August 11, 2015

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By ANDREW FRASER “He knows a lot of people, and he knows a lot of people in the law – and he knows a lot about a lot of people in the law.” Justice Richard Refshauge is summing up on one Ben Jefferson Salmon, QC, who is retiring after 50 years of legal practice, the overwhelming bulk of it at the Canberra bar. Salmon is quick to point out that he has actually been working in the law for some 60 years, having started in his father’s office in Sydney at […]


ACT Domestic Violence and Protection Orders

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April 30, 2015

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The ACT’s protection-order regime is very different to that in place in surrounding NSW. Generally in NSW, police are the applicants after being called to an incident. More often than not, the police application for an order comes after a criminal charge has already been laid by them for an incident of domestic violence. Individuals are able to seek Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders in NSW, but it is not the common practice that it is in Canberra. Under the ACT’s Domestic Violence and Protection Orders Act, an individual (the Applicant) approaches […]


ACT Not Following NSW and Victoria With Mandatory Sentencing for One-punch Assaults Resulting in Death.

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September 15, 2014

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There used to be a joke long before self-government that you could tell with your eyes shut when you were entering the ACT, such was the difference in the quality of the road surface. This was a game played most often on the Kings Highway (the Coast road) between South Canberra and Bungendore as the road left the ACT for Queanbeyan and then came back into the Territory around the Burbong Bridge and out again a few kilometres further on (just past the turn-off for the new Headquarters Joint Operations Command […]

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