Member for Western Victoria
Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party

COVID-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) Bill 2020

Mr GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (14:25): I will only speak very briefly on this one as well, but I hope to raise some key points that are very important to our party nonetheless—our membership, and also the community of victims and survivors that are out there. Three important elements to this bill in terms of Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party’s core policy are the temporary provision of judge-only trials, the expansion of electronic monitoring for offenders and the changes to suspend bail reporting. I will begin with the judge-only trials. The concept of this is not entirely new. As we are probably all aware, other Australian jurisdictions use it, albeit not that much, but mostly where a trial would not be able to happen otherwise. For example, if you had a defendant who is high profile, as we have seen recently, it would be difficult to find an unbiased jury. In relation to the countless historic and recent sexual abuse survivors, where perpetrators committed the same offence against many, many victims judge-only trials should have been considered years ago. One example I can give you is of a string of historic sexual abuse allegations against a doctor at a school within my electorate. You may or may not be aware of it—it was very well publicised—but David Brian Mackey was found guilty in 2019 of sexual abuse against multiple victims at Geelong Grammar School. They issued a statement saying that due to special prejudice the many victims who were pursuing justice against Mr Mackey would not have had their cases heard. Despite not being able to get confirmation from the Office of Public Prosecutions, I have been informed that this is very likely due to his now previous convictions. So this means that handfuls of victims cannot even seek justice because an arguably unbiased jury could not be found. This simply is not good enough. I agree with the current proposed arrangements whereby the defence and prosecution need to agree for a judge-only trial to take place. However, I can identify a problem that where the defence can see that there would not be the opportunity for an unbiased jury to be sought in normal non-COVID circumstances then they will object to a judge-only trial. Therefore I strongly suggest that judge-only trials be looked into further for victims at the conclusion of this pandemic and when the act has ended, for the benefit of all survivors in the future. However, given the reason for judge-only trials in this bill is simply to limit the spread of the coronavirus via jury contact I will support it as it stands. In terms of the expansion of electronic monitoring, it is something that as a party we have been actively looking at for a long time. When the majority of offenders pass through the Magistrates Court it beggars belief that electronic monitoring is not able to be passed down as a sentencing option. So we welcome what is essentially a trial of monitoring offenders as part of their community correction order (CCO) conditions. We are certainly not sitting here saying, ‘Give every criminal an ankle bracelet’, but if a judge has a lawful option to sentence using an electronic monitoring bracelet I hope we will see that applied where appropriate. There are situations which will be more appropriate to attach to these conditions and where we will see better outcomes. Likewise there are inappropriate circumstances in which to hand down an electronic bracelet sentence. I have said it before in this place, and I will say it again. I heard a judge in Ballarat say that CCOs were a complete and utter waste of time, and I believe that this is unfortunately very, very true when you have over 50 per cent of them being breached, as reported by the Sentencing Advisory Council. I hope this will go some way to creating more personalised sentencing arrangements that will be monitored and complied with. However and further, there have been questions and concerns raised on the effective monitoring of offenders who have these electronic devices fitted. If we are going to implement all of these new bracelets as an attachment to a CCO, we need to match them with physical monitoring to ensure that criminals are complying. Otherwise it is a waste of time and a waste of opportunity. In relation to suspending the reporting of offenders on bail, suspending those on bail is without doubt a very contentious topic. It feels and seems odd that returned travellers are subjected to surveillance by both police and our defence personnel while offenders walk free with no need to report to police. It is a concern that this is being done for the safety of police and staff when very basic PPE—personal protective equipment—for police and staff has been significantly delayed and in some instances they still do not have masks to wear unless they are in certain vehicles. Hand sanitiser and gloves are all that is provided, despite their being on the front line. Secondly, there is a consensus among a few police that I have spoken to that police members are actually at more risk going to someone’s home than if they report to a station—and that is if they are even home or contactable. Thirdly, what this means is that it will become very resource intensive to actually go to offenders’ homes and locate them, all the while putting uniformed members face to face with offenders rather than behind a screen at a station. I agree with Mr O’Donohue, who recently said that if this happens it needs to be done for as short a time as possible. I would hope that common sense will prevail and that this does not drag on unnecessarily. I will unfortunately be looking at figures in the future for failing to report when on bail; let us hope for the safety of Victorians that this is not going to be a growing number. So in summary, out of the three core policy areas addressed in this bill for our party, two we are very happy with, and I would like to investigate down the track as to how they may continue postCOVID-19; however, there is one that I do have concerns with, as I have outlined above. But in the spirit of ensuring that these bills pass for the benefit of Victorians generally, we will be supporting this bill.


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