Criminal Law

2015/16 Annual Report

The 2015/16 financial year was once again a very busy year for the members of the Criminal Law Committee.

The Committee has a balanced representation of prosecutors, defence, WA Bar and sole practitioners with a commitment to seek representation from the Aboriginal Legal Service (ALS) in the next 12 months.

The primary achievement of the Committee for this reporting period includes the monitoring the mandatory provisions under the recently amended burglary offences of the Criminal Code and mandatory sentencing for reckless driving under the Road Traffic Act to ensure that any unjust sentences for offenders are identified. This is being undertaken in the context of the Law Society’s continued opposition to mandatory sentencing.

The Committee has been in regular contact with the Commissioner, Department of Custodial Services during the year highlighting a number of issues within the prison environment that create a difficulties for lawyers dealing with clients who are incarcerated. This included confirming the electronic devices that lawyers can take into prisons when meeting with clients and that this be consistent across all prisons, safeguards for ensuring confidential communication between clients and lawyers and the availability of video conferencing facilities and the compatibility of such technology across corrective services.

The Committee has made a number of submissions on draft Bills and reviews of procedural matters in the last 12 months including:

• prohibition on synthetic cannabis (Misuse of Drugs Amendment (Psychoactive Substances) Bill 2015)
Criminal Code Amendment (Infringement Notices) Act 2011 On The Spot Fines
amendments to the Sentencing Act and Sentencing Administration Act 2003 Persons sentenced to life imprisonment prior to 1996; and
• Magistrates Court Report June 2016.

The Committee is also represented on other Law Society working groups or committees including:

 • the Women Lawyers of WA 20th Anniversary Review of the 1994 Report of the Chief Justice’s Taskforce on Gender Bias;
• the Aboriginal Incarceration and Justice Reinvestment Working Party;
• the review of the Magistrates’ Court;
• the Stirling Gardens Magistrates Court Committee; and
• the Supreme Court Chief Justice Committee, Disclosure Subcommittee.

Finally thank you to all Committee members for their commitment and support during the year and particularly acknowledge the contribution of the former Principal Registrar of the Supreme Court of WA Michael Gething who resigned from the Committee following his appointment to the District Court of Western Australia and welcome Registrar Jan Whitbread from the Supreme Court of Western Australia. The continuity of these appointments to the Committee is of significant value to the Committee’s deliberations.

For more information about this committee please email General Manager, Advocacy – Mary Woodford, advocacy@lawsocietywa.asn.au