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DownUnderAllOver

DownUnderAllOver

Developments around the country

DownUnderAllOver is a round-up of legal news from both State and federal jurisdictions, and contains topical articles and short pieces from Alternative Law Journal committees around the country.

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Daniel’s Law — an update

Sue Erickson
Northern Territory

I have previously written on the Sex Offender and Child Homicide Offender Public Website (Daniel’s Law) Bill, which was introduced in NT Parliament on 15 September 2015 and was due for debate in the November 2015 sittings of the Legislative Assembly. Daniel’s Law provided for the publication of certain offenders’ personal details (name, date of birth, details of the offence, photograph and location) on a website that will be accessible by the public. Criticism from stakeholders, such as the Northern Territory Criminal Lawyers Association and the Northern Territory Law Society, surrounded both the soundness of the policy and the government’s lack of consultation. The Country Liberal Party, now in a minority government, needed support from members of the Opposition and the independent members to pass the Bill.

On 27 November 2015, the Attorney-General, John Elferink, announced that, as a result of briefings and concerns raised by stakeholder groups, he would delay the introduction of the Bill. The Bill was withdrawn from the Legislative Assembly by the Attorney-General on 1 December 2015.

(2016) 41(1) AltLJ 68

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Historic homosexuality convictions under consideration

Kelli Lemass
Queensland

The Queensland Law Reform Commission (‘QLRC’) has been tasked with formulating a process by which historic convictions for consensual homosexual sex can be removed from a person’s criminal record.

Queensland decriminalised homosexuality in November 1990 but men charged under the laws still hold criminal convictions. According to documents at the Queensland State Archives, there have been 548 cases involving male-to-male sex and 464 convictions in Queensland over 95 years. The Human Rights Law Centre has encouraged those individuals to come forward and speak with the QLRC.

Five Australian jurisdictions — South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania — have taken steps to address the issue of historic convictions. In September 2015 a coalition of community and legal groups delivered a major research report to the QLRC outlining recommendations to expunge convictions. The key recommendation of the ‘Historical criminal treatment of consensual sexual activity between men in Queensland’ report was that the government introduce legislation establishing a dedicated scheme to consider an application by eligible persons to expunge records for convictions for eligible offences. This would involve amending the Criminal Law (Rehabilitation of Offenders) Act 1986 (Qld).

The QLRC has been urged to consult widely and seek the views of the LGBTIQ community, the public and legal stakeholders as part of the review. It will report back to the government by 31 August 2016.

(2016) 41(1) AltLJ 68

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Domestic and family violence

Nigel Stobbs
Queensland

On 15 October 2015, Parliament passed the Criminal Law (Domestic Violence) Act 2015. The Act made additions and amendments to existing laws. It created a new category of special witness in the Evidence Act 1977, consisting of a person ‘against whom domestic violence has been or is alleged to have been committed by another person – and who is to give evidence about the commission of an offence by the other person’. It also allows a court to receive a submission from a party on what they consider to be the appropriate sentence or sentence range for the court to impose.

A second amending Bill currently before the Parliament, proposes to add an express provision to the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992 (Qld), that domestic and family violence are to be considered aggravating factors when determining sentence, and creating a new offence of ‘choking, suffocation or strangulation in a domestic setting’ in the Criminal Code (as s 315A).

(2016) 41(1) AltLJ 68

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Criminal gangs

Nigel Stobbs
Queensland

The current government made an election commitment to review the efficacy and legitimacy of the previous government’s suite of legislation dealing with organised crime activities and associated violence of outlaw motorcycle gangs. It convened a parliamentary committee, advised by legal and criminal justice policy experts, to advise on possible changes. The committee is due to report back at the end of March 2016, but pressure to leave the relevant legislation (especially the much criticised Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Act) as it stands is mounting from the Queensland Police Service and the Opposition.

(2016) 41(1) AltLJ 69

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Crown submissions on sentence – Barbaro redux

Nigel Stobbs
Queensland

The 2014 High Court decision in Barbaro & Zirilli v The Queen [2014] HCA created a minor ruckus in prosecution circles by coming to the sensible conclusion that prosecutors ought not be permitted to make submissions to a sentencing court on either the appropriate sentence for a particular offender, or the ‘appropriate’ range. Government appears to have paid heed to the ruckus, and tucked away in the new domestic violence Bill, is an amendment to s 15 of the Penalties and Sentences Act, so that the court ‘may receive a sentencing submission from a party to the proceedings that it considers appropriate to enable it to impose the proper sentence’.

(2016) 41(1) AltLJ 69

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