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VLRC: Reform roundup

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Cite as: (2004) 78(9) LIJ, p. 84

With its final reports on sexual offences and defences to homicide due to be tabled in Parliament this month, the VLRC is picking up steam on other references.

The Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC) is wrapping up two references while continuing work on another three.

Sex offences

After three years of research and consultations, the VLRC has finished its final report into sexual offences law and procedures. The report has been handed to the Attorney-General and is due to be tabled in Parliament during the Spring session which began in late August.

The investigation’s terms of reference directed the VLRC to review laws and procedures to ensure the justice system is responsive to the needs of complainants in sexual offence cases. The resulting final report covers the full spectrum of the justice system, from police responses, to the behaviour of lawyers and judges, to counselling and prevention programs.

The report is covered by parliamentary privilege until it is tabled, but once it is made public the VLRC will provide briefings on its 202 recommendations.

The completion of a final report marks the end of the formal law reform process. It is then up to the government to accept or reject the report’s recommendations and implement changes.

Defences to homicide

The defences to homicide final report is also due to be tabled in Parliament’s Spring session.

The VLRC’s review of homicide defences has coincided with other law reform reviews. The Irish Law Reform Commission recently released a consultation paper on provocation and the Law Reform Commission for England and Wales is due to release its final report on partial defences to homicide. The Scottish Law Reform Commission has also published a report on insanity and diminished responsibility.

Existing homicide defences reflect the historical circumstances in which they evolved and so may not be appropriate today. With this in mind, the VLRC’s report takes a critical look at self-defence, provocation, diminished responsibility and sentencing.

The final report considers when people who commit homicide should be considered less morally culpable, and whether these circumstances should form the basis of a separate defence or simply be taken into account at sentencing. The VLRC’s recommendations have also been informed by the social contexts in which homicides occur, and ensuring defences operate fairly for both male and female accused.

Family violence

The family violence reference was due to publish its consultation paper in August but changes to legislation and procedures have meant the deadline has been extended to next month.

The establishment of family violence courts, which involves amendments to the Crimes (Family Violence) Act and Magistrates’ Court Act, a revised police code of conduct and expenditure review, could lead to changes which will impact on the VLRC’s reference.

VLRC researchers have already finished statewide consultations with family violence workers and have begun writing the consultation paper. Once the VLRC has considered the work of the outside reviews, it will make the necessary amendments to its consultation paper and release it for public comment.

In the meantime, the VLRC is keeping in contact with all the consultation participants via a newsletter, which is also posted on its website http://www.lawreform.vic.gov.au.

Privacy

The workplace privacy options paper is due for release this month and has already attracted public attention following a speech delivered by Professor Marcia Neave at a union conference in June.

The paper presents three models for regulation of the sector, which were briefly outlined in the June issue of the LIJ (page 85).

Submissions to the options paper are due by the end of the year and will be used to write a final report which will be published next year.

Once the workplace privacy final report is finished, researchers will move onto the second phase of the reference – privacy in public places.

ART and adoption

Three research papers exploring issues relevant to the assisted reproduction technology and adoption reference are being launched this month.

The paper written by Dr Ruth McNair which was outlined in the August LIJ (page 85) is now posted on the VLRC’s website, along with papers by Sonia Magri and John Seymour and John Tobin.

The reference’s consultation paper received a record 200 submissions in June. The broad range of opinions, experience and research in the submissions will be a valuable resource for researchers writing the interim report.

The VLRC plans to present an interim report to the Attorney-General before the start of Parliament’s 2005 Autumn session.

New references

The VLRC has yet to hear what new references it will receive this year. The government’s recent Justice Statement identified areas for reform, and some of these could be referred to the VLRC.

The Justice Statement foreshadows reviews of the Crimes Act 1958, the Evidence Act 1958, the Coroner’s Act 1985 and the Bail Act 1977; an evaluation of recent criminal procedure reform and the potential for committal hearing reform; civil litigation reform including a review of jurisdictional thresholds of the Magistrates’, County and Supreme Courts; and the development of a new approach to people with cognitive impairment or drug addiction going through the justice system.


Contributed by the VICTORIAN LAW REFORM COMMISSION. For further information, tel 8619 8619 or visit the website http://www.lawreform.vic.gov.au.

viclawreform@liv.asn.au

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