Sentencing (Release on Licence) Amendment Bill
The Hon. J.A. DARLEY (17:55): I rise in support of the bill. The history and trigger for this bill has been put on the record by several other members already, so I will be brief. In late March, the Supreme Court granted an application for release on licence made by Mr Colin Humphrys, a convicted paedophile who offended repeatedly and was detained indefinitely in 2009 as an uncontrollable sexual predator.
It is worthwhile noting that the Parole Board did not support the application for release as they thought Mr Humphrys had a high risk of reoffending. The Supreme Court decision has been appealed by the DPP and a decision is due to be handed down soon. There is utmost urgency in having this legislation pass this parliament.
The government's bill outlines that, if a person who has been indefinitely detained makes application for a discharge of their detention order or to be released on licence, they must first be able to demonstrate that they are willing and able to control their sexual instincts or that they are so aged or infirm that they no longer pose a risk to the public. For those whose applications for discharge are successful, the Supreme Court is able to order that the person not be released until they have undertaken a pre-release program.
The bill will be retrospective, in that it will apply to those who have already made application but have not yet received a decision. The bill will allow the DPP to recall any individuals who have been released on licence if they believe they should be reassessed using the new higher threshold. The bill will also see those who have been released on licence no longer automatically discharged after three years. Instead, the licence conditions will be extended until there is an application for discharge. The government have filed several amendments that will strengthen their original bill.
The opposition have also filed amendments, which will see that applications can only be granted if they have the concurrence of the Parole Board. I understand that the Parole Board already puts forward recommendations to the court on these matters and the courts take the board's position into consideration when coming to a decision. Obviously, in the case of Mr Humphrys, it has caused concern. However, the government have advised that there may be constitutional issues with this amendment, in that it would require the courts to essentially rubber stamp a decision of the Parole Board regardless of whether or not they agreed. I am not minded to support these amendments; however, I reserve my position until committee.
It is very concerning to not only myself but also the broader community that, when there are strong indications that a convicted paedophile is likely to reoffend, they would still be released on licence. I commend both the government and the opposition for moving quickly to address this. I am supportive of the bill and have long held that preventative action is better than a reactive measure. It would be much better for this parliament to do something proactive rather than sitting back and waiting to see if people like Colin Humphrys would reoffend if released.
I am not saying that you should just throw away the key to everyone who is convicted of a serious crime. The bill is very specific in that it relates to those who cannot or will not control their sexual impulses. If a person convicted of serious sexual offences can demonstrate that they have been rehabilitated then they should be able to apply for their detention order to be discharged or to be released on licence. With those words, I again indicate my support for the bill and look forward to the debate over the amendments during committee.