I wish to make a contribution to the debate on the Crimes Legislation Amendment
Bill 2009, which I support. The bill contains a number of amendments to
legislation governing the criminal justice system.
The bill will act on the recommendations of the Sentencing
Advisory Council to restructure the offence of sexual penetration of a child
under the age of 16 with respect to the highest penalty available to be applied
to such an offence — that is, 25 years in jail; the maximum penalty now may be
applied to an offence against a child under 12.
This penalty currently only applies to offences against
children under the age of 10. Raising the age that defines the most serious form
of this offence from 10 years to 12 years recognises the vulnerability of
primary school-aged children.
The bill will adjust the sunset provisions of the Family
Violence Protection Act 2008 to extend the operation of family violence safety
notices for one more year beyond 2010. The bill also corrects an anomaly in the
reporting dates under the Crimes (Controlled Operations) Act 2004 and related
legislation. This correction will allow the special investigations monitor to
report comprehensively on the controlled operations conducted by various
The bill amends the definition of ‘document’ in the Evidence
Act 1958 so that it effectively aligns with the definition of ‘document’ in the
Evidence Act 2008.
A number of points on the government’s amendment in respect of
evidence will be covered by the next speaker for the government, Mr Tee.
There has been significant consultation with the community on
the bill that is before us today. The Sentencing Advisory Council consulted
widely in developing the recommendations to alter the age ranges in the offence
of sexual penetration of a child under 16. The council released both a
consultation paper in March 2009 and a final report in September last year. The
changes to the relevant reporting dates under the Crimes (Controlled Operations)
Act 2004 are made at the request of the special investigations monitor and they
are supported by the Department of Sustainability and Environment, the
Department of Primary Industries and, of course, Victoria Police. The proposal
to extend the family violence safety notice sunset
provision to allow for a full evaluation of new police powers is supported by
the family violence interdepartmental committee, comprised of representatives of
Victoria Police and the departments of justice, community development, human
services and education.
A communication strategy has been developed to ensure that
stakeholders, including peak bodies that deal with family violence, have been
involved, as well as family violence response service providers. That is to
ensure that all elements of the community and all those involved in those sorts
of situations not only have been consulted but will be aware of these matters so
that they can implement the changes in their respective organisations and
The key change that is made by the bill is in the age range of
the offence of sexual penetration of a minor. As I said, the amendment addresses
the sexual penetration of a child under 16.
The most serious penalty of 25 years jail previously applied
only to offences committed against a child under 10. Now it will apply to all
offences against a child under 12. The defence provided for by the legislation
will not apply in relation to an offence committed against any child under 12.
The catalyst for this change was the case of R v. Morris, which
came before the County Court two years ago. The situation was that Morris broke
into his victim’s home and sexually assaulted her while she was sleeping in her
bed. The victim had only two weeks previously turned 10 years of age, and
because she was over the age of 10 the available maximum penalty for the offence
was 10 years imprisonment. If the offence had been committed two weeks earlier,
when she was under 10 years of age, the applicable maximum penalty would have
been 25 years imprisonment.
In October 2008 the Attorney-General sought the advice of the
Sentencing Advisory Council on the adequacy of the current maximum penalties for
the offence of sexual penetration of a child under 16. As I mentioned, the
council released its report in September last year. The council advised that
while the maximum penalties are adequate, the age ranges delineated for the most
serious offences should be altered, all offences against children under 12
should attract the maximum penalty of 25 years jail and there should be no
defence to an offence against a child under 12.
The government is making the change to the Crimes (Controlled
Operations) Act 2004 because the special investigations monitor, or SIM, is
required to report to Parliament each financial year on any controlled
operations conducted by the agencies that SIM officers monitor. The agencies
include the Victoria Police and fisheries and wildlife inspectors. The agencies
in turn are required to report each six months to the SIM about their controlled
During 2009, the SIM raised an anomaly in the reporting dates
required by the legislation. Those agencies such as the Victoria Police that
report to him are required to make their reports in March and September.
However, the SIM is required to report to Parliament as soon as possible after
the end of each financial year. The SIM was therefore potentially left waiting
until September each year before he could begin to prepare his annual report.
The amendment remedies that situation.
People might ask whether the amendment will reduce a level of
accountability. The government’s position on this is quite clear: it does not
believe that is the case at all and that if anything it will increase
accountability by making it easier for the special investigations monitor to
report to Parliament on controlled operations that are conducted each year.
The bill also addresses the issue of family violence safety
Again, one might ask why the notices regime needs to be
extended. I want to quickly make five points on this issue. Firstly, the Family
Violence Protection Act 2008 gave police new powers to respond to family
violence incidents after hours through the issuing of family violence safety
notices. The notices have the same effect as an interim intervention order made
by a court, to provide legal protection for victims of family violence. The
family violence safety notices system is due to sunset two years after the
commencement of the Family Violence Protection Act, and that will fall in
December. The government has made a public commitment to independently evaluate
the efficacy of the family violence safety notice system to determine whether it
is an effective and efficient after-hours response to family violence incidents.
This comprehensive 12-month evaluation is under way. Extensive
consultation is being undertaken by Victoria Police, the courts, and family
violence response service providers as well as victims and perpetrators of
The evaluation outcomes will inform the government on future
decisions on the system and its continuity. To give the government time to
consider the evaluation of the family violence safety notice system and to make
any changes that are needed to be made before the relevant provision sunsets,
the operation of the system will be extended until 2011.
While I am referring to that, there might be a question about
how the notice system is working so far. In the first year of its operation,
3118 notices were issued by Victoria Police. Almost half of them were
handed out on weekends and almost 90 per cent of respondents were male.
The fifth area of amendment made by the bill is to the Evidence
Act. As I mentioned previously, the next speaker for the government, Mr Tee,
will take the house through the government’s proposed changes.
Members can see that the bill is omnibus legislation. It goes
to the heart of and makes changes to the age ranges in relation to offences of
sexual penetration of children under the ages of 10 and 12. The bill makes a
myriad of other amendments to streamline and improve efficiency in the areas of
family violence and evidence. I commend this bill to the house.