More reform on the way

With the focus on the impending commencement of the Evidence Act 2008 and Criminal Procedure Act 2009, it’s easy to forget about other pending reforms for the Victorian criminal justice system.

A lot of plans are flagged in the Justice Statement 1 and Justice Statement 2.

One big legislative change will be a new bail act, discussed by VLRC. In simple terms, the offence-specific focus — with anomalies such as requiring remand for murder, but not for manslaughter — will be replaced by considering two issues: will an accused person answer a grant of bail, and do they pose an unacceptable risk to the community if released on bail.

Another change is a review of the Crimes Act.

This should result in new provisions for investigation powers and procedures — perhaps along the lines of Queensland’s Police Powers and Responsibilities Act or NSW’s Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsiblities) Act. It should also see the introduction of a Criminal Code, or something similar (see Justice Statement 2 at page 14 -15). The Model Criminal Code Officers Committee has worked quietly away for over a decade now, drafting a model criminal code envisaged to provide a national criminal law in the same way we having national road rules and are moving to national evidence laws. Much of this work has been adopted in the Commonwealth Criminal Code. (The Standing Committee of Attorney’s General website has a draft Model Criminal Code on its website — complete with confidential draft stamped on the front cover. Does that mean it’s not supposed to be online?)

The last big mooted change is a new Courts Act, to provide one legislative instrument to cover the Supreme, County and Magistrates’ Courts (see Justice Statement 2 at p 49).

It seems this work is about to kick off, because the Department of Justice recently advertised for policy officers to work on the proposed Courts Act.

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