Criminal Procedure (Monitoring Orders) Amendment Bill
Introduction and First Reading
The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (12:45): Obtained leave and introduced a bill for an act to amend the Criminal Procedure Act 1921. Read a first time.
The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (12:45): I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
I rise to introduce the Criminal Procedure (Monitoring Orders) Amendment Bill. This bill will give effect to the government's election commitment to require convicted firebugs to be electronically monitored during the bushfire season.
It is a reality in Australia that bushfires can cause widespread and catastrophic damage to property, interruption to business as well as injury and death to people, animals and wildlife. The potential for bushfires in this state is significant giving rise to great anxiety in the community, particularly people living in rural and semi-rural areas of the state. We have seen in recent years the devastation that bushfires can unleash across the state, most recently on Kangaroo Island and in the Adelaide Hills. Significant police and emergency services resources are devoted each summer to monitoring suspected firebugs, and battling bushfires to prevent widespread damage to property and the risk to lives.
The Parole Board has, in practice, imposed electronic monitoring during fire season as a condition of release on the parole of some persons convicted of bushfire offences. The duration of electronic monitoring that may be ordered as a condition of a sentence or parole, however, is limited to the duration of that offender's sentence, although an extended supervision order under the Criminal Law (High Risk Offenders) Act 2015 may then be available on application for extended supervision orders and more intensive orders that include multiple conditions and require high-risk offenders to be under the supervision of a Community Corrections Officer.
In many cases the duration of a bushfire offender sentence and parole will be significantly less than the prescribed maximum penalty for the bushfire offence, which is life imprisonment. Court statistics indicate that of the six defendants convicted of this offence in the four-year period from 1 January 2017 to 31 December 2020, four were sentenced to imprisonment, ranging from a sentence of one year and nine months, to a sentence of three years and seven months. Two offenders received, in each case, a two-year suspended sentence bond. More recently, a woman was sentenced in September 2022 to imprisonment for 5½ years after pleading guilty to two of six charges of causing a bushfire.
Modelled on existing provisions for paedophile restraining orders under the Criminal Procedure Act 1921, the bill would amend the Criminal Procedure Act to provide for a new bushfire offender monitoring order. An application would be able to be made by a police officer to the Magistrates Court for an order requiring that a person who has been convicted of the offence of causing a bushfire contained in section 85B of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 to be indefinitely subject to electronic monitoring during the declared bushfire season each year.
A court would be empowered to make the order on the basis that the person has previously been convicted or found guilty of the bushfire offence, and the court is satisfied that the defendant is at risk of committing further bushfire offences. The court would be required to take the following factors into account in considering whether to make an electronic monitoring order in respect of a person previously convicted of an offence.
The court would be required to take into account whether the defendant has engaged in any conduct that indicates they might commit further bushfire offences, any psychological or psychiatric condition that indicates the defendant may be at risk of committing further bushfire offences, and any other matter in the circumstances of the case that the Magistrates Court considers relevant. On application made by a police officer or by the defendant, the court will be able to revoke a monitoring order if the court is satisfied the person is no longer a risk of committing further bushfire offences or will be residing in a place outside of the state.
Provision is also made for the court to suspend monitoring for a specified period if the court is satisfied the defendant is not a risk of committing further bushfire offences during that period or if it is otherwise appropriate to do so—for example, periods where the person travels temporarily out of the state or is immobile due to ill health.
Our government is committed to doing what we can to prevent bushfires from being deliberately lit. Electronic monitoring of suspected firebugs during bushfire season will give police and emergency services another tool in their arsenal to protect our community. I commend the bill to the chamber and I seek leave to have the explanation of clauses inserted into Hansard without my reading it.
Explanation of Clauses
These clauses are formal.
Part 2—Amendment of Criminal Procedure Act 1921
3—Insertion of Part 4 Division 8
This clause inserts a new Division in the Act allowing a police officer to apply to the Magistrates Court for an order allowing the electronic monitoring of a bushfire offender during each fire danger season. The Court must assess whether there is an appreciable risk that the defendant may commit a further bushfire offence (ie an offence against an offence against section 85B of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935), taking into account certain specified matters. The order may be suspended or revoked by further order of the Magistrates Court.
Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. L.A. Curran.