Speeches

22
Aug

Justice Legislation Amendment (Court Security, Juries and Other Matters) Bill 2017

Speeches

Debate resumed from 23 June; motion of Ms PULFORD (Minister for Agriculture).

Mr RICH-PHILLIPS (South Eastern Metropolitan) — I am pleased to rise to make some brief comments this afternoon on the Justice Legislation Amendment (Court Security, Juries and Other Matters) Bill 2017, which is something of an omnibus bill with respect to a range of court-related matters.

The key provisions of the bill — clauses 7 to 12 — relate to the way in which jurors will be identified in the selection process and proceedings. These changes arise from recommendations from the Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC) report which was presented to the previous government in late 2013. They relate to a process by which jurors will be identified by number rather than by name when the jury selection process is underway. The intent of those provisions is to ensure that jurors are not excluded from participation in juries by defence counsel essentially on the basis of their name.

The bill also seeks to decrease the number of peremptory challenges that are available against jurors, from three to two in the case of a civil trial and from six to three in the case of a criminal matter. There are different provisions in respect of where a single person has been arraigned as opposed to where there are two or more people arraigned in the one criminal trial. As I said, this is a matter which has arisen from the VLRC report and it is designed, particularly in respect of using numbers rather than names, to lead to a more representative jury participating in trials.

Part 3 of the bill relates to making it easier for parties who are successful on appeal to obtain compensation arising out of judicial error. Clause 34 of the bill relates to compulsory acquisition of interest in land and determination of compensation, and it lifts the threshold for matters that can be heard at VCAT from the current $50 000 threshold up to a $400 000 threshold, which is intended to reflect the change in values since the original provisions were put in place in 1986. This is a measure designed to effectively fast-track consideration of compulsory acquisition matters by allowing them to be heard in the VCAT jurisdiction. Up to $400 000 is one that the coalition thinks is a reasonable step. It obviously lowers cost, taking it out of the substantive courts into the tribunal jurisdiction, and it should be a useful step in streamlining those compulsory acquisition matters.

The bill also clarifies authorised persons' powers and responsibilities and confers new powers in respect of court security officers insofar as their capacity to respond to security incidents in and around courts. This is a part of the title of the bill, and it is an area in which the coalition believes the government has dropped the ball — that is, the general issue of court security and funding for court security. We have seen in recent years an increase in security-related concerns around our courts, such as in relation to high-profile cases, particularly matters around terrorism and terrorism-related cases where you can have large attendance in public galleries, highly emotive attendance in public galleries and in the vicinity of the court, and high-profile defendants. The capacity for court security to deal with that has perhaps been limited, and the resources available to court security to deal with that have also been limited.

Ironically the powers that the bill provides to court security officers are in some respects reflective of the powers previously available to Victoria Police in the move-on laws, which the government removed very early in its term and has had to make subsequent amendments to reinstate in part, as we saw in the Parliament last week. They are similar to the powers being provided to court security officers by virtue of clause 49 of this bill. In respect of the court security elements, we think this bill has an element of catch-up. The government has not provided adequate resources to date and this is an area that needs to be addressed both in terms of powers, which are being provided by this legislation, and also in terms of resources to Court Services Victoria to undertake those security functions at our courts.

The bill also allows the Victorian Legal Services Board to approve persons to receive trust moneys. The intent there is that the class of people who are likely to be approved to receive money will be barristers' clerks, and that is a useful administrative change which the coalition does not oppose.

Clause 72 of the bill allows for the reimbursement of costs in certain VCAT planning enforcement matters. Where local government takes planning enforcement matters before VCAT, it will have the capacity to recover costs in taking those matters before VCAT.

As I said, the bill is very much an omnibus bill. It covers a broad range of matters. The most significant is in respect of the capacity to challenge the make-up of juries and reduce the component which can be peremptorily challenged in civil and criminal matters. There is also the shift from the use of names to numbers in identifying jurors. Likewise, the provision in respect of court security is also significant. The coalition believes that all these measures, and the other measures I outlined, are reasonable. As I said, they are a broad range of unrelated matters but the coalition believes that they are reasonable, and accordingly it will not be opposing this bill.
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