STUART GRIMLEY MP

Member for Western Victoria
Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party

Justice Legislation Amendment (Police and Other Matters) Bill 2022

I rise also to speak on the Justice Legislation Amendment (Police and Other Matters) Bill 2022. This bill will do a whole range of things in respect of the Victoria Police Act 2013 and the Sex Offenders Registration Act 2004. Clearly that means it is a very important bill for our party, which was formed predominantly on the back of Derryn Hinch’s incredible advocacy fighting for survivors of childhood sexual assault over the past three decades. To the contents of the bill: I am so glad to see the government is fixing issues in the Sex Offenders Registration Act. Coincidentally one of the issues being fixed is one that we had been informed about by Victoria Police members and were planning to address through an amendment. This issue is that sex offenders with no fixed address do not currently have to give information about where they sleep as part of their reporting requirements. Under this bill they will now be required to identify where they sleep on a regular basis, and this is great news. The bill will also reduce reporting from 14 days to seven days for certain information, including details of the motor vehicle they are driving. Importantly it broadens the definition of when a registered sex offender has contact with a child to include when they are maintaining contact, not just forming that contact—another great amendment. As an ex sexual offences and child-abuse investigation team detective, this is something that is very important when it comes to prosecuting an offender. The bill clarifies that certain sexual offences against a person with a cognitive disability are class 2 offences, and I am thrilled to see the government proactively changing potentially flawed language to ensure that it is airtight, which ensures offenders’ legal representations cannot find loopholes in the law. I would ask the minister to clarify perhaps in summing up or in the committee stage the fact that there seems to be an ability for a sex offender to appeal their registration after two years in respect of this type of offending. One amendment we are not happy with is that the bill will allow sex offenders to report by audio link, audiovisual link or electronic communication during a state of emergency or even during a state of disaster or a pandemic. The concern is that if we have a pandemic that goes on for years, like we are currently experiencing, then offenders might not be physically checked to see if they are where they should be. One issue we have had raised with us by the specialist case managers who manage the sex offenders list is the powers of entry and search and seizure. These powers only exist if the registered sex offender has a prohibition order in place. These orders are quite difficult to get when the offender has not reoffended in recent times yet may still pose a threat to children or there is a reasonable suspicion that they are continuing to reoffend. An example might be accessing child abuse material. We had an amendment to this bill; however, we have had a commitment from the minister’s office that they will look into these issues, and for the safety of children we hope that this is investigated properly. On to the changes that the bill makes in respect to Victoria Police matters, the bill gives police powers to protect the security of police premises, including police stations. This gives officers the ability to move people on who do not have a legitimate reason to be there or pose a threat to the peace. A legitimate reason includes seeking assistance from a police officer or PSO, reporting the commission of an offence, providing information to an officer or attendance required by law. The bill establishes a definition of ‘police premises’, which includes any premises occupied or used by Victoria Police on a permanent or temporary basis for any purposes related to the functions, duties or powers of Victoria Police. It includes police stations, office storage areas, car parks or parts of a car park, entrance foyers, exit points and PSO pods—the structures that are in the vicinity of railway stations. The bill also makes clear that protective services officers can use specialist police terrorism powers when operating in an authorised area, not just a designated place, in the event of a terrorism incident. Moving on to another set of changes regarding the leaking or unauthorised disclosure of protected information, the bill provides a clear obligation for police personnel to only access, make use of or disclose police information if required by their current duties. The minister said it will: … impose a clear, standalone obligation on police personnel to maintain the confidentiality of police information, without reference to separate policy documents, and with a clear instruction that access must be directly related to their current duties and functions. We have a concern that this amendment will not create an indictable offence, only a summary offence, and therefore will be subject to the statute of limitations in bringing forward such allegations. We have a number of case studies we can cite when it comes to how this amendment may not fix the issue, including matters which take more than 12 months to be investigated and for charges to be laid. This amendment will not have its intended effect unless the statute bar is lifted. Therefore we would ask the minister’s office to commit to further reviewing these three sections—namely, sections 226, 227 and 228—of the act to ensure that victims are able to bring their cases forward. This is about instances of poor police behaviour being able to be raised in court in the very first instance. The bill allowsfor the Chief Commissioner of Police to select a workplace or work unit within Victoria Police to give random drug and alcohol testing directions. There is already an ability to drug and alcohol test employees, but this will narrow the pool of potential tests. The minister said to this: … for drug testing to be an effective deterrent, the chances of being randomly tested must be increased. Those who are doing the right thing will not be affected. The bill establishes a framework for the restorative engagement and redress scheme, which supports current and former police officers who have experienced sexual harassment or sex discrimination in the workplace. It will provide more transparency around the eligibility criteria and increase privacy protections for participants. This means in effect that discrimination based on breastfeeding, gender identity, lawful sexual activity, marital status, parental status et cetera is a basis for participation in the scheme. It will be administered by the Department of Justice and Community Safety and is only available for offending before 13 December 2019, as this is the date the administrative scheme came into effect. Outcomes of the scheme can be an amount of money, counselling or therapeutic services or participation in a restorative engagement process. Oddly, no documents connected with the scheme are admissible in criminal or civil court. This causes some concern, as if someone is unhappy with the outcome and chooses to take civil action then they will have little evidence outside what has already been provided through the scheme. There is also the inability for an apology to be given, from what I read. I would ask the government to confirm whether this is correct. If not, this is a big flaw in the scheme. Some survivors do not necessarily want money, they just want a recognition of what was done to them and an apology. One other part of the bill is that Victoria Police will now be able to charge for their services at for[1]profit events. This is actually quite controversial because it could render some events non-viable. Regulation will deal with how these charges are calculated. The opposition made a point in the other place about the viability of community events such as agricultural shows, and Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party would also like to seek a commitment that these types of events will not be included in the regulations. Lastly, I just wanted to use this opportunity in debating a bill about sex offenders to speak about the report on the inquiry into management of child sex offender information. The government accepted in principle that they would refer to the Victorian Law Reform Commission the prospect of a limited disclosure scheme so parents can apply to find out if someone connected to their child has a history of child sex offending. The government’s response was: The Act already includes measures for the public disclosure of information relating to a registrable offender in limited circumstances. The Victorian public disclosure scheme was introduced in 2017, five years after Western Australia and nine years after the United Kingdom introduced their limited child sex offender disclosure schemes. Any suggestion that Victoria has a limited disclosure scheme like the UK or Western Australia is simply wrong. This is something that we will take to the election as we believe it is a parent’s right to know. Other than that, I commend the bill to the house.

STUART GRIMLEY MP

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