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Department of the Attorney General
Annual Report 2015/16
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Agency Performance

Policy and Aboriginal Services

Strategic Policy Development and Advice

The Department, through its Policy and Aboriginal Services Directorate, provides strategic policy advice and analysis to Government on key reforms in the justice system. It achieves this by:

  • facilitating the amendment of legislation to reform criminal and civil law and procedure
  • developing policy initiatives to improve justice-related outcomes for all members of the community and developing initiatives that improve justice outcomes for Aboriginal people
  • undertaking reviews, evaluation and research to recommend improvements to, and future directions for, policy, legislation and services
  • undertaking research and statistical analysis about current justice issues and trends.

In drafting and developing policy and undertaking Departmental reviews regarding victims of crime, extensive consultation was undertaken with key stakeholders. This was underpinned through the direct involvement of the Commissioner for Victims of Crime in guiding, consulting and drafting legislative and operational administrative amendments.

Legislation

During 2015/16 the Department guided the development of new and amending pieces of legislation. These included:

Bail Legislation Amendment Bill 2016

The Attorney General, the Hon Michael Mischin, introduced the Bail Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 to the Western Australian Parliament on Thursday 30 June 2016.

The Bill aims to:

  • balance community safety with the granting of bail for less serious offences to reduce the risk of accused people unnecessarily being held in custody
  • introduce a requirement for a court considering bail for serious offences to have regard to the views of any victim, or any family member of a victim, as to whether the accused poses a threat to safety
  • reduce the number of warrants of arrest issued for non-appearance in court for those charged with simple offences
  • improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the Bail Act 1982 generally
  • reduce the unnecessary transportation of children and young people from regional areas to Perth to be remanded in custody.

Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Enforcement Amendment Bill 2016

The Attorney General introduced the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Enforcement Amendment Bill 2016 to the Western Australian Parliament on 7 April 2016. This Bill amends the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Enforcement Act 1996 to reflect recent amendments to the Commonwealth legislation.

Highways (Liability for Straying Animals) Amendment Bill 2016

The Attorney General introduced the Highways (Liability for Straying Animals) Amendment Bill 2016 to the Western Australian Parliament on Thursday, 7 April 2016. The Bill aims to:

  • update the current cap on damages recoverable for loss caused by animals which stray on to the roads under the Highways (Liability for Straying Animals) Act 1983
  • provide for the cap to be prescribed in regulations
  • provide for the indexation of the cap so that it can be varied annually in line with the wage price index.

The Sentencing Legislation Amendment Act 2015

The Sentencing Legislation Amendment Act 2015 was assented to on 2 November 2015. The Act ensures that prisoners transferred to WA prisons from interstate jurisdictions are subject to the parole provisions of the sentencing jurisdiction.

Dangerous Sexual Offenders Legislation Amendment Bill 2015

Significant amendments to existing dangerous sex offender legislation were passed by State Parliament by the end of the financial year, with the final development of the bill being undertaken by the Commissioner for Victims of Crime.

Changes made to the Dangerous Sexual Offenders Act 2006 are designed to better protect the community and victims of crime from dangerous sex offenders once they have served their sentence and are released from custody.

Reviews

During the year the Department undertook a range of legislative reviews. In some instances these were statutory reviews (that is, reviews required by legislation) and in other cases they were as a result of a ministerial request.

During the year reviews of key pieces of legislation were undertaken. These included the:

Review of the Guardianship and Administration Act 1990

A statutory review of the Guardianship and Administration Act 1990 was completed during the year. Forty-two submissions were received from the public and key stakeholders. The Review Report makes 86 recommendations and was tabled in the Western Australian Parliament on 2 December 2015.

Review of the Prohibited Behaviour Orders Act 2010

A statutory review of the operation and effectiveness of the Prohibited Behaviour Orders Act 2010 was completed as required under section 40 of that Act. The Review Report was tabled in the Western Australian Parliament on 8 September 2015.

Review of the Criminal Law (Mentally Impaired Accused) Act 1996

The review of the Criminal Law (Mentally Impaired Accused) Act 1996 was finalised by the Department during the year. The final report makes 35 recommendations and was tabled in the Western Australian Parliament on 7 April 2016.

Copyright

The State has a statutory obligation under s183 of the Copyright Act 1968 (Commonwealth) to pay copyright owners for the use of copyright works used for the services of the State.

Amendments to the Act in 1998 had the effect of requiring governments to deal with declared collecting societies rather than individual copyright owners.

These societies are authorised under the Act to collect remuneration on behalf of all copyright owners whose works have been copied by Government.

Most statutory obligations of State Government agencies for remuneration for the reproduction of works (literary, dramatic, musical or artistic) and “published editions” of works are met through centrally funded whole of government agreements, administered by the Department, with the following copyright collecting societies:

  • Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) for the photocopying and electronic copying of works (literary, dramatic, musical and artistic) and published editions of works, other than works that are included in a sound recording, film or television or sound broadcast
  • Australasian Performing Right Association Limited (APRA) for the public performance of music through the use of radio and television receivers in public and work areas, background music in lifts and waiting rooms
  • Audio-Visual Copyright Society Limited (trading as Screenrights) for the copying of sound and television broadcasts.

Outcomes 2015/16

In March 2016, the State, through the Department, extended the Retrospective Remuneration Agreement with CAL, at a cost of $1.699 million, for a further three year period, which concluded on 30 June 2016.

Negotiations for a new agreement with CAL are ongoing.

Law Reform Commission of Western Australia

The Law Reform Commission of Western Australia is an independent statutory authority for which the Department provides administrative and management support.

The Commission provided the Attorney General with its final report into the Representative Proceedings reference which was tabled in Parliament on 21 October 2015.

The Commission provided a recommendation to enact legislation to create a scheme in relation to the conduct of representative actions.

The final report provided seven recommendations in the hope that they will facilitate the conduct of representative actions in Western Australia and provide certainty to plaintiffs.

The Commission completed the final report into the Provisional Damages and Damages for Gratuitous Services reference. The Commission was requested to examine the law and make recommendations in relation to two areas:

  1. whether the ‘once and for all’ rule under the common law should be modified through the introduction of ‘provisional damages’
  2. whether a specific head of damages for the value of gratuitous services (domestic or otherwise) provided by the plaintiff to others should be introduced.

The Commission has published a discussion paper into the Review of the Firearms Act 1973 (WA) reference. The Commission requested submissions from stakeholders and the public to the 44 questions and 46 proposals listed in the discussion paper, receiving an unprecedented number of submissions, with more than 1,200 received. The final report is due to be published in the 2016/17 financial year.

Aboriginal Justice Program

The Department, through the Aboriginal Justice Program, proactively addresses the over-representation of Aboriginal people in the criminal justice system through a range of policy initiatives and targeted services.

Open Days

Aboriginal Open Days aim to improve social and justice outcomes and promote alternatives to incarceration for Aboriginal people with unpaid fines, driver’s licence issues and stay of execution of warrants.

They provide a suite of easily accessible, targeted services, delivered in a culturally appropriate manner, on or close to country.

The Department delivers Open Days in a collaborative service delivery model with other agencies.

At Open Days, Aboriginal people can apply for a birth certificate, obtain a letter of birth confirmation or arrange to register their birth. Additionally, they can resolve their outstanding fines, apply for a driver’s licence, register for Centrelink payments and, in some locations, obtain legal and financial guidance and assistance.

In 2015/16 there were 73 Open Days delivered in priority locations. The locations were researched and identified from data at the Fines Enforcement Registry as being localities where many Aboriginal people were at risk of being incarcerated for unpaid fines and infringements, stay of warrants of executions and/or driving without a licence.

Triple Action Strategy

In October 2014 the Premier of Western Australia, the Hon Colin Barnett MLA made a public commitment seeking to reduce the over-representation of Aboriginal people and Aboriginal deaths in custody.

Policy and Aboriginal Services Directorate subsequently enhanced the Aboriginal Justice Program and developed the Triple Action Strategy to address the State Government’s Aboriginal Reform Agenda.

The Strategy has three platforms to strengthen family, social and cultural capital for Aboriginal people convicted of low level offences:

  • affirmative and culturally appropriate engagement with Aboriginal people in the justice system.
  • accessible justice services delivered, particularly in regional and remote areas of Western Australia.
  • alternative and accountable options to the imprisonment of Aboriginal people with low level offences.

During the year the Department implemented the strategy to deliver meaningful outcomes for Aboriginal people. The following table details the comparative analysis of outcomes from 2014 before the Strategy was adopted, and 2015, after its implementation.

Comparative analysis of Strategy achievement2013/142014/15 2015/16
Number of Open Days held   38  39  73
Number of people attending Open Days  1,196  1,611  2,751
Conversion of fines   $142,598  $178,290  $329,096
Amount of fines paid   $438,491  $464,853  $662,094
Number of people entering into time to pay arrangements   171  204  339
Stay of warrant executions   67  93  138
Licence suspension lifted   267  384  684
Birth certificate application   480  710  925
Confirmation of birth letters Issued   193  233  424
Births registered   222  516  335
Practical driving assessments conducted   60  138  146
Theory tests conducted   82  325  232
Log books issued / re-issued   37  62  115
Suspended fines for motor vehicles driver’s licence   126  123  151
Centrelink - applications for Medicare   36  95  155
Centrelink - concession cards issued   55  80  146

Aboriginal Mediation Service

The Aboriginal Mediation Service provides culturally appropriate conflict and dispute resolution services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in a range of areas, including disputes involving families, neighbours and multi-party community issues, as well as burial and coronial matters.

During the reporting period the Aboriginal Mediation Service handled 122 enquiries, resulting in 31 matters being considered for pre-mediation, mediation or other alternative dispute resolution processes.

The Aboriginal Mediation Service also provided three interagency meetings with other key Government stakeholders to assist clients and two external information sessions to assist the referring party to make effective referrals, and to deal with conflict in their communities using a culturally appropriate form of dispute resolution.

Grants

The Department administers a grants program on behalf of the Attorney General, drawing on funds collected under the Criminal Property Confiscation Act 2000.

Money and property is seized from criminals by the WA Police and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, and after costs the remaining funds are distributed to the community through grants.

Outcomes 2015/16

During 2015/16, under the Criminal Property and Confiscation Grants Program, 21 grant offers totalling $3.19 million were made to local government and non-profit community groups. These grants will support projects aimed at delivering better justice outcomes for at-risk young people as well as providing support to a diverse range of community members from people with disabilities to victims of family violence and seniors.


Last updated: 27-Sep-2016

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