Friday 18 September 2015

Key features of the Corrections Legislation Amendment Bill 2015

This week the Corrections Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 (Bill), was passed by the Victorian Parliament.
On its commencement, the new act will mean Victoria's parolees will be subject to cancellation of parole should they receive an interstate or overseas prison sentence whilst on parole. The Adult Parole Board's power to compel production of documents or attendance of witnesses is codified and procedural changes to the Board are made, while the power of prison Governors to monitor prisoners electronically is made explicit. Victoria Police will have an additional 12 months to commence proceedings against a parolee for breach of parole conditions under amendments to the Corrections Act 1986 (Corrections Act).

The Bill also amend the Corrections Act to codify the powers of prison Governors, the Adult Parole Board and Victoria Police.

Interstate Prison Sentences against Parolees

Following the decision of the Supreme Court of Victoria in Mercorella v The Secretary to the Department of Justice [2015] VSC 18, the Bill clarifies that parolees may have their parole cancelled if a court in or outside of Victoria imposes a term of imprisonment for offences committed either before or during the parole period.

Adult Parole Board's power to compel evidence

The Bill clarifies the Board's power to compel persons to produce specified documents or attend meetings of the Board to give evidence.  Where a notice to attend is issued to a person in custody, the Board will be able to direct the Governor of the prison to facilitate the attendance of the prisoner, either in person or by video link.
In relation to taking evidence, the Bill confirms the Board is not a court and is not bound by the rules of evidence.  However, the Board may require a person who attends under a notice to attend, to give evidence on oath or affirmation.
In the absence of a reasonable excuse, it is an offence for a person to fail to comply with a notice to produce or notice to attend, potentially attracting a term of imprisonment or fine.

Electronic monitoring of prisoners in prisons

Under the Bill, a new provision is inserted in the Corrections Act to explicitly permit a Governor of a prison to order electronic monitoring of a prisoner.  Examples of possible uses given in the second reading speech are to monitor the movements of selected prisoners within certain areas, to keep certain prisoners separated, or to assist in a medical response if the monitor indicates that a prisoner has stopped moving.
The current s 23, which gives a prison officer general powers to give an order to a prisoner for the security or good order of the prison or the safety or welfare of the prisoner or other persons, is not affected by the new provision.

Time frame for commencing proceedings for breach of parole conditions

Currently, a parolee commits an offence if he or she breaches the conditions of their  parole.  Under the Corrections Act, Victoria Police must commence proceedings against a parolee for breaching his or her parole conditions within 12 months of the date of commission of the alleged offence.
To prevent the time limit of 12 months resulting in some breach proceedings being statute barred because a breach of parole conditions may not be readily apparent before the 12 months elapses, the time limit is extended to 2 years.  This will allow for a criminal investigation to evolve over time, and for  Victoria Police to await the outcome of court proceedings related to other offences.
Among other changes, the Bill will also permit the Secretary to the Department of Justice and Regulation to authorise departmental officers to perform the roles of a community corrections officer, regional manager and secretary to the Board.

Brendan McIntyre
Principal Solicitor
9947 1435

Elizabeth Wortley
Senior Solicitor
9947 1433

Debra Coombs
Principal Solicitor

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