Reforms included in the Criminal Law Amendment Bill 2014
The Criminal Law Amendment Bill 2014 sees reform in a number of criminal law areas. The proposed amendments include harsher penalties for various offences and further mandatory sentencing provisions.
The proposals are generally in line with the “Tough-on-Crime” mandate set by the Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Mr Jarrod Bleijie.
The creation of further offences, such as the match-fixing provisions, is in line with provisions currently operating in other State jurisdictions.
It is difficult to extrapolate what impact, if any, these provisions will have on offending as harsher penalties and/or mandatory sentencing provisions have proven to be ineffective historically in many other jurisdictions.
We see serious evidentiary difficulties arising with respect to the new Serious Animal Cruelty provisions and fail to grasp how a Prosecuting authority will satisfy the Court’s that an animal suffered “severe pain or injury” or “prolonged suffering” beyond a reasonable doubt.
The new amendments are as follows:
Mandatory one-year imprisonment for a sex offender who removes GPS bracelet
Section 43AA of the Dangerous Prisoners (Sexual Offenders) Act 2003 will be replaced with a new section that holds a mandatory minimum jail sentence of one year for any sex offender who removes or tampers with their GPS bracelet for the purpose of preventing their location. The one-year imprisonment must be served wholly in a corrective services facility; the maximum penalty is a five-year sentence.
The maximum penalty for procuring child, increased
Section 229G of the Criminal Code Act 1899 deals with procuring engagement in prostitution. Previously the maximum penalty when dealing with a child or a person with mental impairment was fourteen years imprisonment, the new reforms have increased this to twenty years.
Predators convicted of child grooming can be listed as Dangerous Offenders
The new reforms allow the Courts to list a predator convicted of child grooming, as a Dangerous Offender, even if he or she was caught by a police officer pretending to be a child.
New offence of Serious Animal Cruelty
A new offence of Serious Animal Cruelty will be inserted into the Criminal Code Act 1899. This section will see a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment for any person who intentionally kills, causes severe pain or injury, or causes prolonged suffering to an animal.
Amendments will also be made to the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001 by way of a new section, which will allow the Courts to make an order prohibiting someone who has been charged with an animal welfare offence from purchasing, owning or possessing animals.
New match-fixing offences with high penalties
There are six new match-fixing offences, which will be inserted into chapter 43 of the Criminal Code Act 1899. They are as follows:
- Engaging in match-fixing conduct
- Facilitating match-fixing conduct or match-fixing arrangement
- Offering or giving benefit, or causing or threatening detriment, to engage in match-fixing conduct or match-fixing arrangement.
- Using or disclosing knowledge of match-fixing conduct or match-fixing arrangement for betting
- Encouraging person not to disclose match-fixing conduct or match-fixing arrangement
- Using or disclosing inside knowledge for betting
The above match-fixing offences carry a maximum penalty of ten years imprisonment.
Amendments to Queensland’s double jeopardy rules
More amendments are being made to Queensland’s double jeopardy rules retrospectively, which will allow offenders who got away with serious crimes in the past to be retried if new and compelling evidence emerges.
Online pleas of guilty
The new reforms will see offenders afforded the opportunity to enter a plea of guilty online, for a selection of minor offences that can already be dealt with ex-parte.
This reform has been criticised as “Rubber Stamp Justice”. Those who oppose the move say that it removes the “seriousness” of offending by removing the offender from the physical Court process, thereby failing to sufficiently reinforce the consequences of their conduct.
We note that offenders have been able to enter a plea of guilty in writing with respect to the same type of offences for years, and this reform seems to be aimed at simply bringing this process into the 21st century.
Stealing offence amended
The offence of Stealing will be amended to ensure that penalty applies to an offender who steals property from a declared area under the Disaster Management Act 2003, including when the theft occurs immediately after the declaration ends, to ensure victims are appropriately protected until they return to their property.
Expert witnesses to give evidence via video link
A new section of the Evidence Act 1977 will be inserted under division 3A which establishes a presumption that expert witnesses will give evidence in court via a video link. The court may however still require an expert witness to attend a court hearing and give oral evidence.
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