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Statement from Attorney-General Robert Clark

News

Cite as: September 2014 88 (09) LIJ, p.20

The Coalition government is proud of its law and order reforms and the establishment of Court Services Victoria, making courts independent.

Since being elected in 2010, the Coalition government has introduced far-reaching reforms to support a fair, just, practical and timely legal system and to strengthen community safety.

We will continue with these reforms if re-elected for a second term.

We have ended the culture of denigration of the judiciary and the legal profession that prevailed under the former Labor government.

We have established Court Services Victoria to give Victoria’s courts control of their own administration, independent of executive government.

We have driven the landmark Uniform Legal Profession Reforms that started from 1 July and will take full effect from early 2015.

We have also introduced reforms to support Victoria’s courts and legal system. These include:

  • simplifying civil litigation by scrapping mandatory pre-litigation requirements;
  • reforming and strengthening the operation of the Public Prosecutions Service;
  • reforms to simplify and shorten jury directions, reducing trial times and removing opportunities for technical appeals;
  • reforming the law on expert witnesses and costs in civil litigation;
  • abolishing Labor’s acting judges regime and introducing reserve judges under the responsibility of the head of jurisdiction;
  • the Open Courts Act 2014 to reform suppression orders and support open justice;
  • the Vexatious Proceedings Act 2014 to reform the law on vexatious litigants;
  • introducing legislation for a Judicial Commission, including provision for professional bodies to lodge complaints on behalf of members;
  • introducing legislation to require leave for Supreme Court civil appeals, so as to speed up appeals and give litigants better assurance of a timely final resolution of proceedings;
  • introducing legislation to simplify the law of committals.

These and other reforms have enabled Victoria’s courts to clear cases at a record pace despite growing levels of lodgements.

A Coalition government will also continue to back the courts and legal system with facilities and support. Already we have provided:

  • record funding for Victoria Legal Aid;
  • a world-leading mega-trials court room;
  • Victoria’s first commercial arbitration and mediation centre;
  • funding for a new $63 million court complex at Shepparton;
  • funding for a new Children’s Court at Broadmeadows;
  • funding for a $12 million refurbishment of the OPP offices in Melbourne;
  • funding for the Ashley-Venne Supreme Court criminal appeal reforms;
  • funding for the weekend sittings of the Magistrates’ Court;
  • upgrading of courthouses at Bendigo and Wangaratta;
  • CCTV security in 20 courthouses across rural and regional Victoria.

We will also continue a wide range of reforms to civil law and practice that will make a real practical difference. Reforms already introduced or under way include:

  • reforms to the law of powers of attorney and guardianship;
  • improving the law of wills and succession;
  • simplifying the law on fences;
  • bringing Victorian laws on commercial arbitration into line with international practice;
  • online renewal of practicing certificates;
  • making it easier for corporate and government lawyers to undertake pro-bono work.

We are also delivering on our commitment to better protect the community through stronger and more effective sentencing. Already we have:

  • abolished suspended sentences;
  • put teeth back into community based sentencing, including options such as curfews, no-go zones, non-association orders, alcohol exclusion orders and up to 600 hours of community service;
  • reformed the law on fines and infringements to make the system fairer and to enable better enforcement;
  • introduced four year statutory minimum non-parole periods for attacks involving gross violence;
  • introduced legislation for baseline sentences, to give the community greater say about the overall level of sentences for serious crimes;
  • introduced legislation for those convicted of large scale commercial drug trafficking to forfeit almost everything they own;
  • legislated so that those convicted of alcohol fuelled violence are banned from licensed premises for two years.
  • Introduced legislation for tougher sentences for attacks on police and emergency workers;
  • introduced tougher penalties for serious breaches of family violence orders.

Other key reforms to criminal law and safeguards to date have included:

  • strengthening bail laws;
  • legislating to allow criminal bikie and similar gangs to be outlawed and fortifications on their premises demolished;
  • ensuring parolees who reoffend have their parole automatically cancelled or reassessed;
  • reforming double-jeopardy laws;
  • introducing Brodie’s law to make serious bullying a serious crime;
  • strengthening police powers to use and retain DNA evidence;
  • broadening move-on laws;
  • providing for crime victims to be consulted prior to judges giving sentence indications;
  • strengthening Working With Children Check legislation;
  • new offences for those who cover up or fail to report child sexual abuse;
  • extending the power of police to issue safety notices to protect family violence victims.

If re-elected for a second term, the Coalition government will continue with reforms to improve the law and better support Victoria’s legal system, building on all we have been able to achieve in our first term.

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