Simon Corbell has used the vapid wasteland of twitter to announce he’s removing the option of single judge trials for serious crimes, juries will now be the only option.
There has been a perception in the community that our judges have been a bit hard to convince when it comes to guilt and serious crimes. Something borne out by the enthusiasm of defence lawyers to take that route.
The bill is being tabled on Thursday.
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UPDATE: The media release is now out:
“The ACT has the highest rate of election for judge-alone trials in Australia with 56% of cases being heard without a jury, and this is significantly higher than the next closest jurisdiction, South Australia, with 15% heard by judge-alone,” Mr Corbell said.
“The ACT’s rate includes high rates of choice of judge-alone trial in matters involving allegations of a sexual nature, including child pornography, and those involving the death of a person, particularly murder and manslaughter.
“This level of election of judge-alone trials was never intended when the election process was introduced by Attorney General Connolly in 1993.
“At that time the changes were intended to provide the judge-alone trials in matters where pre-trial publicity could prejudice a fair trial or those involving complex and lengthy legal issues.”
The changes introduced by the Government’s Bill would require trials of serious offences like murder, manslaughter, culpable driving occasioning death and sexual offences (including child pornography offences), to be heard before a jury.
“Juries perform an important role in involving citizens in the criminal justice system. The Government’s view is that in relation to the most serious matters, the involvement of juries allows community standards to be better reflected in the criminal justice system,” Mr Corbell said.
Mr Corbell said the Bill would now lay on the table of the Assembly for three months to allow for further consultation with stakeholders on it’s provisions. The Government previously undertook consultation on the proposal through a discussion paper in 2008.
“Some concern has been raised about the impact of the reforms on the timeliness of matters being heard in the Supreme Court. The Government is confident that the package of reforms currently before the Assembly to see more matters heard before the Magistrates Court will address that issue,” Mr Corbell said.
“I do not doubt that some stakeholders will raise objections to these proposals. Nevertheless the Government believes that criminal justice can only be further strengthened by reaffirming the importance of jury trials for serious criminal matters.”