This paper reviews law and order legislation that was passed in the States and Territories in the period from 1 January 2003 to 31 July 2006. It updates two earlier briefing papers that covered law and order legislation from 1995 to 1998 and from 1999 to 2002. Like the earlier papers, this paper deals with legislation containing significant reforms and it does not refer to statutes containing minor changes. Overall, this paper refers to over 230 pieces of law and order legislation that was passed across Australia in the period under review. Federal legislation was not included in the survey except for anti-terrorism laws.
Ten notable developments over the period under review are:
1. Federal and State/Territory anti-terrorism laws.
2. Various legislative measures to combat organised and multi-jurisdictional crime including enactment of model laws developed by the Model Criminal Code Officers Committee: eg, model laws on cross-border investigative powers.
3. Significant reforms to domestic violence laws made or proposed in a number of jurisdictions, including recent proposals in NSW.
4. Reforms in relation child-sex offences and child pornography offences, as well as new post-sentence sanctions on child-sex offenders.
5. Measures to provide greater protection for victims in sexual assault trials.
6. Legislation in several jurisdictions that allows courts to refer defendants and offenders to intervention programs as a condition of bail or as part of the sentencing process: eg Drug Courts and the new Alcohol Court in the Northern Territory.
7. In relation to Aboriginal offenders – the establishment of a Children’s Koori Court in Victoria and the West Australian Law Reform Commission’s discussion paper containing proposals on Aboriginal customary law.
8. The abolition of prison sentences of 6 months or less in Western Australia.
9. Greater recognition of the rights of victims in relation to sentencing and parole decisions in several jurisdictions.
10. Significant reforms to juvenile justice in a few jurisdictions, including laws enacted in NSW to provide for the management of certain juvenile detainees by the Department of Corrective Services; and new juvenile justice laws in the Northern Territory, which include a statement of guiding principles based on international standards and an expansion of the pre-court diversion scheme.