JURY DIRECTIONS BILL 2012

I am very glad that the previous member took his full 10 minutes; I thought he made a very stirring contribution on the Jury Directions Bill 2012. I am very pleased to rise to make my contribution on this important piece of legislation, which I note had its genesis in the hard work and vision of the former Attorney-General, Rob Hulls, who instigated the review. Rob Hulls was a great reformer.

Members know that changes to the manner in which a judge addresses a jury require a significant amount of research and work prior to being implemented, because there is clearly a very serious outcome, particularly in criminal trials, based on what is allowed to be considered by the jury and the manner in which the judge sums up the evidence and gives direction to the jury on both law and fact. Having been a lawyer and studied law for many years, as one does, I can say it is a very complicated area of expertise. It has a language all of its own, which is often quite inaccessible to people who have not had the benefit of those years of training. The position of juror is a very important public sector role, requiring the sacrifice of a lot of time and the devotion of a great deal of energy. Anything that can make jurors’ lives easier and the discharging of their duties clearer and more direct is to be welcomed. We note that this has been a long process commenced under the previous government.

As others have said, the bill proposes a range of changes to the manner in which a judge addresses a jury. It provides a new process for identifying which directions to give. In particular it deals with the issue of the summing up of a case to the jury by the trial judge. It gives judges some direction in making the summing up process somewhat shorter and punchier. The bill requires that the judge only explain the areas of the law that are necessary to determine the issues in the trial in order to reduce the amount of potentially confusing information for those who are making the important determination. It removes the need to summarise closing addresses. It will also mean a judge does not have to give a full summary of the evidence, but only identify so much of the evidence as is considered necessary, which is an important reform. It also allows the judge to give integrated directions regarding law and fact, which is also a very important reform because separating law and fact can again add to confusion for a jury deliberating on many important facts — —

An honourable member interjected.

Ms GARRETT — That is exactly right. We note that juries should have a greater say in the sentences that are handed down. We ask the Attorney-General, who is in this house, to consider the very important proposals that the Labor opposition has presented regarding jury direction. They are fine proposals which have been welcomed.

Sitting suspended 6.29 p.m. until 8.02 p.m.

Ms GARRETT — Prior to the dinner break I was making a contribution to debate on the Jury Directions Bill 2012. For members who did not have the benefit of hearing my earlier remarks, which is several members — the house looked quite empty on that side — this process was started by the former government and the then Attorney-General, Rob Hulls.

There was an extraordinary process of analysis, discussion and reflection as to how jury direction could operate more quickly and be better for the juries involved. As we left for the dinner break I was touching on the recent announcement by the Labor opposition regarding juries having a greater say in the sentencing process, which is a wonderful initiative that has had widespread interest and support.

Mr Clark — You’re kidding yourself. It’s a complete dud.

Ms GARRETT — I note the current Attorney-General is agitated about this policy, and he may well be for he has unceremoniously ruled it out in the face of good evidence, good facts and a good reception. The policy allows the community a genuine say in sentencing practices and ensures that the judicial and justice systems keep pace with community expectation and input.

It would have been a very bold but welcome gesture from the government if, rather than rehashing the work we did in government — which is what those on the other side appear to have done, coming in here with very few new ideas — it had embraced what we are offering up in opposition. Instead the government is sticking to a very thin legislative and policy program.

Mr Clark — Which you’re supporting! You’re supporting our legislation!

Ms GARRETT — We are not opposing it. I should not take up the interjections of the Attorney-General, but I will.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Morris) — Order! The member for Brunswick will not respond to interjections.

Ms GARRETT — I will refrain from taking it up.

However, there is a broader discussion, and I understand the agitation of those who sit opposite. I understand the frustration that so little that is new is being offered up by this team. We on this side certainly share in that frustration. Once again we sit here and debate ideas from past governments. We are interested in having a wide-ranging debate, and former premiers of this state had plenty to say last week about the lack of ideas, lack of energy, lack of passion and lack of anything happening. It is a testament to that situation that once again we are debating previous government policy. The opposition does not oppose the bill. It was a great initiative by the former Attorney-General. We acknowledge that the current Attorney-General has taken it forward, and we commend the bill to the house.

Hansard, 2013