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Proposed changes to modernise laws on Norfolk Island

Media release

22 September 2017

The Australian Government is modernising laws on Norfolk Island to protect children, women and all other residents against criminal violence and other illegal acts.

As the representative of the Australian Government on Island, I seek feedback from the Norfolk Island community on these changes, including:

  • creating a specific charge for anyone who grooms or procures children for sexual activity;
  • allowing a broader range of people to obtain restraining orders where there are reasonable grounds to believe a person may inflict personal violence upon another person;
  • expanding the offence of endangering health to include intentional choking, suffocation and strangulation;
  • putting in place a presumption that a person who is accused of a domestic violence offence should ordinarily not receive bail; and
  • allowing domestic violence victims to have recorded statements used in court.

These changes will offer the Norfolk Island community the same protection under the law which is offered on mainland Australia. A more comprehensive description of the proposed changes is below.

These changes are part of the ongoing reform process being undertaken in consultation with the local community, whilst we also strengthen health and social security and expand support services for families and children.

Changes are proposed to the following legislation:

Child Welfare Act 2009 (NI)

To improve safety and care of children and young people, changes are proposed to allow a child or young person to be appropriately accommodated with a carer as part of emergency action; streamline court procedures; allow the delegation of child welfare officer functions and powers to other appropriate persons (such as additional caseworkers) in order to provide adequate levels of child welfare services; and facilitate information-sharing to ensure that all persons working to provide child welfare services on Norfolk Island have information necessary for them to perform their roles effectively.

Criminal Code 2007 (NI)

Changes to the Code are proposed to make clear how it applies to offences in applied law on Norfolk Island and to further support modernisation of the criminal law by introducing additional offences relating to children and expanding the offence of endangering health.

Domestic Violence Act 1995 (NI)

Reflecting advances in the law in other Australian jurisdictions, this law will be repealed and replaced with the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 (NSW). This Act protects a broader range of people than the current law in Norfolk Island. An application may be made by an individual seeking a protection order or by the Norfolk Island Police Force and will be heard, in the first instance, by the Norfolk Island Court of Petty Sessions.

Bail Act 2005 (NI)

In keeping with some other Australian jurisdictions, a presumption against bail for persons accused of domestic violence offences will be introduced.

Evidence Act 2004 (NI)

This law will be changed to allow recorded statements of domestic violence victims to be used as evidence-in-chief, in keeping with other Australian jurisdictions.

The full list and details of proposed legislative amendments can be seen at Attachment A.

If you would like to make any comments or ask questions on these changes, please contact me at office.administrator@infrastructure.gov.au before Friday, 6 October 2017.

Depending on the outcome of consultations, it is expected that these changes will be made by ordinance in November, after which they will be available on the Federal Register of Legislation at https://www.legislation.gov.au/

I will continue to keep the community informed about proposed legislative changes as part of the ongoing reform process.

Eric Hutchinson

Proposed changes to modernise laws on Norfolk Island- Attachment A

Child Welfare Act 2009 (NI)

Changes to this law improve the protections provided to children and young people on Norfolk Island. The proposed changes are to:

  • Allow a child or young person to be accommodated with a carer (whether within or outside of Norfolk Island) as part of emergency action, where doing so is necessary to ensure his or her safety. The Act already allows children to be accommodated with a carer within or outside Norfolk Island under a care and protection order.
  • Streamline court procedures relating to applications about the welfare of children and young persons to ensure that hearings are conducted in a non-adversarial, non-technical manner.
  • Allow the child welfare officer to delegate functions, powers and duties under the Act to other appropriate persons (such as additional caseworkers). This will ensure adequate levels of child welfare services are provided on the Island.
  • Facilitate information-sharing to ensure that all persons working to provide child welfare services on Norfolk Island have the information that is necessary for them to perform their roles effectively.
  • Ensure that the Child Welfare Officer is made aware of convictions for child sexual offences.

Criminal Code 2007 (NI)

A number of changes to the Code are proposed to make clear how it applies to offences in applied laws on Norfolk Island and to further support modernisation of the criminal law. The proposed changes will:

  • Clarify how the principles of criminal responsibility in the Code apply to offences committed under applied laws.
  • Introduce new offences of procuring and grooming children for sexual activity. This will align Norfolk Island laws with those on the mainland by providing additional protections for children to criminalise conduct committed in preparation for actual sexual abuse.
  • Expand the offence of endangering health to include intentional and unlawful non-fatal choking, suffocation and strangulation. The application of this development will align Norfolk Island laws with those on the mainland, reflecting evidence that strangulation is often a precursor to deadly violence and will improve protections for victims.

Domestic Violence Act 1995 (NI)

Since the Norfolk Island legislation was passed in 1995, there have been advances in the law on the mainland. Rather than draft very significant changes to this Act, the Australian Government proposes to repeal it and replace it with the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007(NSW). This Act protects a broader range of people than the current law in Norfolk Island. It will also allow an individual who is not necessarily in a domestic relationship with a person, but who has reasonable grounds to fear personal violence from that person, to apply for a protection order. Applications may also be made by the Norfolk Island Police Force and will be heard, in the first instance, by the Norfolk Island Court of Petty Sessions.

Bail Act 2005 (NI)

Since the Bail Act 2005 (NI) became law, some mainland jurisdictions have introduced a presumption against bail for persons accused of domestic violence offences. The Australian Government proposes to introduce a similar presumption, modelled on laws in other mainland jurisdictions.

Evidence Act 2004 (NI)

Since the Norfolk Island legislation was passed in 2004, mainland jurisdictions have introduced provisions allowing the recorded statements of domestic violence victims to be used as evidence-in-chief in certain circumstances. The Australian Government proposes to replicate these provisions on Norfolk Island.