New Victoria bill introduces criminal procedure amendments

The bill is intended to boost confidence in the state's justice system

New Victoria bill introduces criminal procedure amendments

A proposed bill currently before the Victorian parliament seeks to amend the state’s Criminal Procedure Act regarding the disclosure obligations of informants in criminal proceedings and other matters.

One of the key criminal procedure amendments in the Justice Legislation Amendment (Criminal Procedure Disclosure and Other Matters) Bill 2021 would that of the requirement for informants to “identify relevant information, documents or things that are not contained in the full brief or hand-up brief” along with the explanation for their exclusion. The bill will provide for the procedural aspects of applications for orders concerning non-disclosure, and clarifies that evidence related to the credibility of a prosecution witness is “relevant to that proceeding and must be disclosed.”

In a speech during the bill’s second reading in the legislative assembly, Natalie Hutchins MP said that “disclosure obligations play a vital role in ensuring criminal proceedings are conducted fairly.”

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“The failure to disclose relevant information can have serious consequences, including convictions being overturned for a substantial miscarriage of justice,” she said.

The Justice Legislation Amendment (Criminal Procedure Disclosure and Other Matters) Bill also amends other Acts to broaden sentence indications in the higher courts. Currently, higher courts can only provide a sentence indication on whether a sentence of imprisonment will be handed down; however, Hutchins pointed out that the process is “of limited utility given the seriousness of cases in the higher courts.”

Moreover, the bill enables and validates the use of electronic applications to initiate personal safety intervention orders (PSIO). The reforms would allow a person to confirm that the contents of their online application are “true” on submission (a “declaration of truth”). A system will then be utilised to validate applications for a PSIO submitted electronically during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition, the bill will enable the Children’s Court of Victoria to set rules regarding the exercise of family law jurisdiction, and allow evidence to be given remotely in proceedings relating to family violence.

The Justice Legislation Amendment (Criminal Procedure Disclosure and Other Matters) Bill was introduced by Jacinta Allan MP in late October. The bill aims to implement recommendations made by the Royal Commission into the management of police informants.

The legislation amends a number of different acts to accommodate the chief magistrate’s role as a dual commission holder with the Supreme Court. The affected Acts include the Magistrates’ Court Act, Judicial Entitlements Act, County Court Act, Supreme Court Act and Constitution Act.

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