SUMMARY PROCEDURE (ABOLITION OF COMPLAINTS) AMENDMENT BILL

Second Reading

Adjourned debate on second reading.

(Continued from 8 June 2016.)

Ms CHAPMAN ( Bragg—Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (16:38): I rise to speak on the Summary Procedure (Abolition of Complaints) Amendment Bill 2016 and indicate that the opposition will be supporting this bill. In the relatively brief time we have had to consult on the matter, we are satisfied that our side has no objection to the terms as outlined. The Law Society have indicated that they take no objection—in particular, the Criminal Law Committee, which is probably the most likely to have members who might raise some complaint.

Let us just remember what we are doing and why we are doing it. The government have said that this is an efficiency measure which I suppose relieves South Australia Police of having to doublehandle prosecution matters. That would of course save some time and presumably some money. In short, what occurs at present is that under a summary offence, this is established by the laying of a complaint supported by evidence in affidavit form. If a charge is in the minor or major indictable offence category, the process is to file an information supported by a written statement and verified by declaration.

What happens in practical terms is that if SAPOL prepare at one level and the charges are either upgraded or downgraded, the preparation and filing of the necessary charge and supporting documents are redone, depending on which way they are progressing. There are some historical reasons for the requirement of the two distinct provisions, but it is fair to say that obligations have changed over the years.

We now have statutory disclosure of material, etc., so the form is not as important. It serves as a bit of discipline to the SAPOL officers responsible for preparing these cases to have a good think about what level of charge they are progressing and, as best as possible, to get it right. The introduction of one standard form could leave this approach open to some laziness; nevertheless, we are prepared to accept it.

The second matter I want to comment on has not been traversed at the briefings I have had, but is referred to in the second reading. The current arrangement is that an affidavit is sworn by an authorised person (for example, a solicitor, Justice of the Peace, or a commissioner for taking affidavits). That is the current process. The Attorney highlights in his contribution that it is proposed that SAPOL would require all police officers to undertake relevant training to seek their appointment by the government as a proclaimed police officer under the Oaths Act. This is another category which can actually undertake this task.

Any requirement of legislative change to accommodate that does not appear in the bill; we have simply been informed of that. I have to say that on the face of it I would see it as a gross waste of resources and time to train every police officer in South Australia in the role so that they might, from time to time, be available to take oaths under the Oaths Act. I think it is reasonable that we get some information as to what is happening with that.

Perhaps the Attorney can send me information on what funding is being allocated to this, who is going to be doing the training and what is required, particularly as we have just signed off on another piece of reform for justices of the peace, who largely do this work. More importantly—not that the money is not important, nor the time spent by police officers signing documents rather than doing other police work—when statements are taken, they are recorded by the interviewing officers.

The statement is converted to an affidavit or declaration and then authorised by the proclaimed police officer. There is no independent party taking this oath, and I think that is potentially not a good practice. There is no other independence of the taking of that oath. It is all very well to have convenience, but we have some of these rules for good reason, so I just flag that. In the Attorney-General's second reading speech, he says:

This will eventually enable all police officers to administer oaths and ought to improve the quality of sworn affidavits filed by SAPOL.

That is not something I swallow easily, and I would want to have some further information on that in due course. Further, we will not be making any amendments.