STUART GRIMLEY MP

Member for Western Victoria
Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party

Police and Other Matters Bill Amendment

GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (15:16:11): I would like to echo the sentiments of Mr Gepp in some of the comments that he has just raised, in particular more recently in relation to the increase in police numbers that the government is slowly putting forward, although I am not too sure in my time recently that I have ever seen too many police at a station. There can never be too many police. As an example, I was out at Melton recently, and they have only received five out of the 13 that they were promised, so there is always more opportunity for more police to be at stations. That is just something for the government to consider, but I digress a bit. I also commend the government for their commitment to the safety of the people of Victoria. That is one of the intentions behind the amendment that I intend to raise later on. On their commitment to protecting the protectors also—the police and the PSOs that are out there putting their life on the line day in and day out—I must commend both sides of the Parliament for their commitment to ensuring their safety. Having probably been within the justice system most recently of anybody in this Parliament, I think I have got a bit of credibility when I say that assaults do happen too often and they are getting too violent. The more that we can do to protect our protectors, the better for all of us. On the increased penalties for drug trafficking, I have arrested many, many drug traffickers, put them before courts and been frustrated with the sentencing practices, so it is pleasing to see that these penalties are being increased. I will watch this space in terms of whether or not they are carried out by the judiciary. The Justice Legislation Amendment (Police and other Matters) Bill 2019 alters a range of existing law and order acts, and many of these changes will surely be welcomed by the community and will mirror the collective views of my constituents. This bill achieves many things, including creating new offences for recklessly discharging a firearm and for the intimidation of law enforcement officers that we spoke about before, as well as for their family members. Like I said, as a former police member I strongly support this. In addition to this, the bill also reclassifies lever action shotguns from category A to a combination of categories B and D. This makes it harder for people to legally possess or use those guns and therefore has the full support of Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party. Whilst I understand that there are a handful of concerns which relate to how DNA samples are collected, Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party believes that there is practically no crime too small to warrant a DNA collection. I believe this too mirrors widespread community views and expectations. Of course if you are innocent, then ultimately you should not be worried about police taking a sample to reinforce your innocence.

I would like to reiterate my support for the majority of this bill; however I do intend to move an amendment to the component of the bill which deals with the Sex Offenders Registration Act 2004, which I seek to disseminate to the chamber at this point in time. Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party amendment circulated by Mr GRIMLEY pursuant to standing orders. Mr GRIMLEY: The objective of our amendments is simple: to give Victoria Police the same powers which are currently given to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Our amendment would enable police officers to inform members of the public who face a real threat from a convicted sex offender—a convicted sex offender that they would not have been aware of otherwise. Currently police have access to this information but face up to two years imprisonment for sharing it even if it is in the public’s best interest. For example, if a police member—or members—attends a household where a child or spouse is being abused, the officer is not able to inform the victim that their perpetrator is not only already known to police but is also a convicted sex offender. Under the current Children, Youth and Families Act 2005, section 42D, authorised persons—as in the police—may disclose the information when the authorised person believes this information sharing is in the best interests and wellbeing of the child. The current process for such a disclosure is for the police to liaise with DHHS to explain the situation in order for DHHS to inform the person caring for the child at risk.

This amendment does not seek to remove the current powers of DHHS in disclosing this information. This amendment seeks to allow Victoria Police members who are first on the scene at such incidents the ability to directly inform a person at risk of being in contact with a registered sex offender. Our amendment further seeks to include adults as well as children who have direct contact with a registered sex offender, with or without prior knowledge, in the act. The advice we have received from the Police Association Victoria on the proposed amendment is that it does not stand to adversely impact police or the administration of their work in any way. Prior to the 2018 state election and again in February this year the opposition signalled their support for both a public register and greater public awareness of sex offenders living close by, stating that ‘Victorians deserve to know if they have a high-risk serial offender living in their street’. I echo Mr O’Donohue’s comments from before and thank him for his endorsement of this amendment. Spouses, domestic partners, parents, children and siblings will all be given access to this information if they reside in the same house as a convicted sex offender. I often ask the question: if there was a person living in your house and you did not know their full history, would you like to know? As we are all aware, the majority of sexual assaults are carried out by people who are known to the victims and within the family household. This amendment serves as a precursor to the public register of convicted sex offenders bill that we hope to introduce later in this term of Parliament, but today we feel this amendment is just common sense. We therefore welcome the support of all sides of the chamber.

GRIMLEY: I move: Clause 49, after line 25 insert— “( ) After section 64(2) of the Sex Offenders Registration Act 2004 insert— “(2A) Despite subsection (1), the Chief Commissioner of Police or a person authorised to have access to the Register or any part of the Register may disclose personal information in the Register relating to a registrable offender to any of the following persons— (a) a person who is the spouse or domestic partner of the registrable offender; (b) a person who is a parent, child or sibling of the registrable offender; (c) a person who resides in the same premises as the registrable offender.”.”. In relation to the Sex Offenders Registration Act 2004 I desire that we allow persons authorised to have access to the register to disclose personal information in the register relating to registrable offenders to any person that is in direct contact with a registered sex offender. This amendment was circulated in the second-reading debate. Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party believes that allowing Victoria Police to inform spouses, domestic partners, parents, children and siblings of convicted sex offenders that they are at risk is simply common sense. The Department of Health and Human Services has had this right for many years, and it has achieved greater public awareness and safety.

As we are all aware, the majority of sexual assaults are carried out by people known to the victims. As I said in the second-reading debate, the government has announced a commitment to the safety of all Victorians. This amendment seeks to strengthen that safety. I thank the members who spoke on this matter previously. In response to those speakers, I wish to add that this amendment provides another mechanism to improve the safety of potential victims of domestic violence and victims of crime. I have spoken before about wearing ribbons and the symbolic nature of those things. This is an opportunity for us to actually turn those symbolic gestures into real actions and real changes that affect real people. I will give you an example. As you all know, I was until recently a police officer. I attended many domestic violence incidents during my tenure as a police officer. When there was a domestic violence incident between two adults one of whom was a registered sex offender, as a police officer I was unable to disclose to the other party this information. Registered sex offenders are not in the habit of disclosing their past to many people.

This amendment allows for preventative measures for potentially vulnerable persons. This amendment may prevent further crimes and may even prevent further deaths as a result of domestic incidents. Mr Bourman asked at what point does someone’s right to privacy outweigh someone else’s right to be safe. On the other hand, Ms Patten spoke of empirical data showing that public registers of sex offenders do not reduce reoffending, may promote vigilante behaviour and are not supported by the police. Just on this, what the empirical data does not show us is who does not get sexually assaulted. It does not show those people who choose not to go to a registered sex offender’s residence. Who is to know who they are. It is very similar to pill testing. It is difficult to know how many people are saved from something they do not do. This amendment, further, is not about a public register of sex offenders. It is not about reducing reoffending. It is about giving information to people who may be at risk of being sexually assaulted or worse. In relation to vigilante behaviour, there is no room for such behaviour in a civilised society.

A current version of a register in Western Australia has shown no reports of vigilante behaviour. In relation to the police not supporting the amendment, personally many police that I know, especially those that are much higher ranked than I ever was, do support this, but they are obviously tied to the voice of the government. Further to this, the Police Association Victoria has no concerns with this amendment. It was pleasing also to hear Dr Ratnam speak previously on the Greens’ priority to ensure the safety of all Victorians. This amendment seeks to ensure that safety continues. To sum up, this amendment is all about safety and giving knowledge to those whose lives depend on it. I commend this amendment to the house.

STUART GRIMLEY MP

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