JURY DIRECTIONS AND OTHER ACTS AMENDMENT BILL 2017- Second Reading
MsSYMES (Northern Victoria) I too rise to just make a brief contribution on the Jury Directions and Other Acts Amendment Bill 2017. The government is committed to further simplifying and improving the way information is provided to juries in criminal trials. We have heard from previous speakers that the reform process in relation to jury directions and jury reform has been underway for many years, and it is great to see continual improvements as we proceed. Of course jurors are faced with a difficult task in criminal trials, so reform of the law in relation to jury directions should aim to make their task easier by ensuring that the directions given to jurors are clear and assist in their decisionmaking processes. These changes are intended to result in fewer appeals and retrials and therefore minimise as much as possible the stress and harm caused to victims and their families. We are always working to improve the experience of the criminal justice system for victims. Of course we all understand that going through the criminal justice system as a victim is never an easy time, so we should certainly be looking at anything we can do to lessen the burden that is placed on victims being forced into the system. Directions that jurors can more easily understand and apply will also enhance the integrity of jury verdicts and the criminal trial process. Jury directions are the directions a trial judge gives a jury to help them to decide whether the accused person before them is guilty or not guilty, so it is a very important area of law. Given the fundamental importance of trial by jury to Victorias criminal justice system, directions must be helpful, relevant and as fair as possible. This bill builds on previous reforms, including the Jury Directions Act 2015, and also makes related amendments to other acts, including the Criminal Procedure Act 2009 and the Juries Act 2000. In essence the reforms include clarifying the content of particular directions, discouraging or abolishing unhelpful and confusing directions, removing arbitrary time requirements for jury deliberations and introducing new directions to address common misconceptions. In the same way as previous jury directions reforms have been discussed in detail by the expert advisory group established by the department to assist in this reform process, the members of this advisory group and I would like to thank them for their work consist of representatives of the Court of Appeal, the County Court, the Office of Public Prosecutions, Victoria Legal Aid and the Criminal Bar Association as well as the Judicial College of Victoria and a few academics specialising in jury research. Their input has been vital to ensure that the proposed jury directions are fair, clear and effective. MsPennicuik has indicated that the Greens have some amendments. I note that one of those is out of scope, but on this occasion it is not the governments intention to oppose the motion to proceed with those amendments. Having said that, it is not the governments intention to support those amendments, MsPennicuik. I will allow the minister to further elaborate in the committee stage. I commend the bill to the house. Motion agreed to. Read second time. The ACTING PRESIDENT (MsDunn) I have considered the amendments circulated by MsPennicuik. In my view amendments2 and 12 are not within the scope of the bill, therefore an instruction motion pursuant to standing order15.07 is required.