Presentation on theme: "1 Insert title here Victorian Law Reform Commission."— Presentation transcript:
1 Insert title here Victorian Law Reform Commission
2 The VLRC and law reform Independent, government funded organisation Established by the Victorian Law Reform Commission Act 2000 Central agency for developing law reform in Victoria since 2001 Two main aspects – Attorney-General references and community law reform projects
3 The role of the VLRC (a) to examine, report and make recommendations on law reform in Victoria, as referred to the Commission by the Attorney-General; (b) to examine, report and make recommendations to the Attorney-General on minor legal issues that are of general community concern (c) to suggest to the Attorney-General that a matter relating to law reform in Victoria be referred to the Commission; (d) to monitor and co-ordinate law reform activity in Victoria; (e) to undertake educational programs on our references.
4 Why have a Law Reform Commission? Laws may be: –Out of date due to changing attitudes and values –Out of date due to changes in technology –Not dealing with a problem –Not working very well. We think how to make the law: –Up to date, practical, fair, in touch with the community As a permanent body, we can build expertise.
5 Structure of the Commission Chairperson and five Commissioners CEO, research, policy and admin staff Commissioners decide on recommendations to put forward in final report Research and policy officers provide support
6 VLRC Commissioners Chairperson The Honourable Philip Cummins (retired Supreme Court Judge) Commissioners Directorate Manager at the Office of Public Prosecutions; Queen’s Counsel specialising in wills and probate work Director of Criminal Law/ Senior Public Defender, Victoria Legal Aid; retired County Court Judge; retired Supreme Court Judge.
7 Types of VLRC references Technical ‘black letter’ law e.g. jury directions, evidence, property. Adapting to changes due to technological developments e.g. surveillance and assisted reproductive technology (ART) Complex social issues: e.g. abortion, family violence, child protection and guardianship.
8 Where our projects come from References from the Attorney-General (about 80 per cent) Suggestions from the community (community law reform) (about 20 per cent)
9 Community law reform Section 5(1)(b) of the VLRC Act 2000 enables the Commission to: “to examine, report and make recommendations to the Attorney General on any matter that the Commission considers raises relatively minor legal issues that are of general community concern if the Commission is satisfied that the examination of that matter will not require a significant deployment of the resources available to the Commission” Minor changes that can make a big difference Promoting access for people or groups not traditionally involved in law reform
10 Criteria for CLR projects In deciding whether to undertake a community law reform project the commission considers the following: –The area in which the law applies (must be Vic law) –The scope of the project (not too big) –The amount of community consultation that will be needed – The likely public benefit –Community involvement –The prospects of success for the reform proposal. –The resources and time needed –Avoiding duplication.
11 Community Law Reform Current Project –Birth registration and birth certificates Previous projects –Supporting Young People in Police Interviews –Assistance Animals –Residential Tenancy Databases –Failure to Appear in Court in Response to Bail
12 Our principles The VLRC is: Independent: not part of the political process Innovative: consider law reform elsewhere and use new consultation techniques Inclusive: law reform involves the community
13 References: past, present and future… Current –Succession Laws –Birth registration and birth certificates –Crimes (Mental Impairment) Recently completed –Guardianship –Sex Offenders Registration Recent Past (a selection) –Child Protection (Children’s Court) –Supporting young people in police interviews (CLR reference) –Jury directions –Surveillance in Public Places Future … –?–?
15 Case study 1 Jury Directions report (2009)
16 Jury directions The Attorney-General asked us to consider the law concerning directions which judges give to juries in criminal trials. The project began in January 2008. In June 2009 we delivered our report to the Attorney-General, with 52 recommendations.
17 What are jury directions? The judge in a criminal trial gives the jury directions, to assist the jury to reach a verdict. The jury directions have two parts: –Directions on the law –Summary of the evidence The judge decides the law, the jury decides the facts of the case (guilty or not guilty).
18 Why was reform needed? The law on jury directions had become too complex. Judges’ directions were taking too long. Juries were confused by over-complex directions. Unnecessary appeals and retrials resulted from errors in the directions (causing stress to victims, witnesses etc).
19 Terms of reference The Victorian Law Reform Commission is to review and to recommend any procedural, administrative and legislative changes that may simplify, shorten or otherwise improve the charges, directions and warnings given by judges to juries in criminal trials. In particular, the Commission should: (a) identify directions or warnings which may no longer be required or could be simplified; (b) consider whether judges should be required to warn or direct the jury in relation to matters that are not raised by counsel in the trial; (c) clarify the extent to which the judge need summarise the evidence for the jury. http://www.lawreform.vic.gov.au/projects/jury-directions/jury-directions- terms-reference
20 Our process Appointed retired Supreme Court judge Geoff Eames as consultant Created a consultative committee of retired judges and criminal lawyers Consulted with judges, lawyers, DPP Met with other law reform agencies Received submissions from legal profession and the public Published consultation and background papers identifying issues Developed 52 recommendations.
21 Main recommendations Replace various sources of law with one piece of legislation (statute) on jury directions. Guide judges about when to give directions and the content of directions. All directions should be clear, simple, brief, comprehensible, relevant. Judges should not restate all the evidence, only what is necessary to ensure a fair trial. Clarify what judges should tell juries about the conduct of the accused after the offence (such as lies)
22 Government action In December 2012, the Victorian government introduced legislation to Parliament based on the VLRC’s recommendations and other proposed reforms. New laws are expected to be passed in 2013.
23 Outcomes? What will these changes result in? Maybe: Shorter trials Better-informed juries More just verdicts Fewer retrials and appeals More public confidence in the legal system.
25 Case study 2 Surveillance in Public Places (2010)
26 Surveillance The Attorney-General asked us to consider the uses of surveillance in public places, and balance these against the protection of privacy. The project began in March 2006. In June 2010 we delivered our report to the Attorney-General. In August 2010 the report was tabled in Parliament.
27 What is surveillance in a public place? Surveillance = deliberate observation or monitoring of a person, object or place Public place = any place to which the public has access by right or invitation (including privately owned places)
28 Examples of surveillance CCTV GPS and satellite technology Mobile phones Number plate recognition Body imaging devices and scanners Listening devices Myki and e-tags (radio frequency identification) Biometrics (e.g. fingerprints, face recognition) Google Earth & Street View
29 Which of these do you think are OK? CCTV cameras on stations and trains CCTV cameras on private houses pointing at the street Hidden CCTV cameras with no signs notifying the public they are there Body scanners at airports that show ‘nude’ images Someone recording a private conversation without your knowledge CCTV cameras in toilets, showers and change rooms Someone filming a fight on a mobile phone, then uploading it to YouTube
30 Who uses surveillance? Police VicRoads Public transport providers Shopping centres Clubs and casinos Libraries Property owners Sports stadiums Private investigators The media
31 Why? Crime prevention Crime investigation Asset protection Monitoring crowd behaviour and traffic flow News gathering Public safety (e.g. accidents at stations, on trains) Entertainment
32 The law Surveillance Devices Act 1999 (Vic) Commonwealth and Victorian privacy legislation Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (Vic)
33 Surveillance in public places The Attorney-General directed the VLRC to inquire into and report on: –the widespread use of surveillance and other privacy-invasive technologies in public places, and the potential risks and benefits posed by these technologies. –whether legislative or other measures are necessary to ensure that there is appropriate control of surveillance in public places
34 A balanced approach The VLRC took an approach that sought to balance the benefits of surveillance with the potential risks.
35 Risks of surveillance Loss of privacy Misidentification Targeting of groups such as young people and minorities Antisocial and criminal uses Change the way people use public spaces Affecting political speech and association Affected people Victorian community Marginalised groups – including: –People experiencing homelessness –Other disadvantaged groups
36 The “chilling effect” “As the use of surveillance cameras becomes more widespread, there is a concern that apprehension about unknown monitoring of activities in public places may alter the way in which people behave. People may no longer feel able to act and communicate with a sense of freedom.” Surveillance In Public places, final report
37 Consultation Consultation paper Visits and meetings Roundtables Submissions
38 Submissions Consultation paper posed 24 questions to guide responses Received 44 written submissions: –individuals –community representatives –human rights advocacy groups –legal organisations –users of surveillance technology
39 Final report Brought together all research and input from consultation Devised legislative principles Recommended a balanced approach 33 recommendations
40 Legislative principles People are entitled to a reasonable expectation of privacy when in public places. Users of surveillance devices in public places should act responsibly and consider the reasonable expectations of privacy of individuals. Users of surveillance devices in public places should take reasonable steps to inform people of the use of those devices. Public place surveillance should be for a legitimate purpose related to the activities of the organisation conducting it. Public place surveillance should be proportional to its legitimate purpose. Reasonable steps should be taken to protect information gathered through public place surveillance from misuse or inappropriate disclosure.
41 Recommendations 33 recommendations in final report, they included: –New laws that promote the responsible use of surveillance in public places, based on the six principles –A regulator of public place surveillance –Modernising and strengthening the Surveillance Devices Act 1999 –Right to sue for serious invasions of privacy –Prohibiting surveillance in public toilets and change rooms –Prohibiting recording activity or conversation without consent of other parties –Strengthening role of Privacy Commissioner
43 What next? Final report tabled in Parliament on 12 August 2010 Government considering recommendations Renewed public interest? – Federal government indication of interest in inquiry on right to sue for invasions of privacy
44 Further info/ VLRC resources Law Reform in Action booklet Copies of reports, electronic or hard copies Make a CLR suggestion… Keep up to date via Twitter @VicLawReform, Facebook www.facebook.com/VicLawreform or our website www.lawreform.vic.gov.au