Jury Directions Bill 2015

Ms RYALL (Ringwood) — I rise to speak on the Jury Directions Bill 2015. The coalition is not opposing the bill, but I want to make it clear in my brief contribution that this is essentially a revamp of a bill we introduced in 2014. The member for Eltham stated in her contribution that this bill is fundamental to Labor values. Interestingly, it was not fundamental to Labor values when a similar bill was introduced under the previous government. The problem with Labor values is that they change to suit the political situation.

Certainly Labor has not been consistent on this bill. Labor voting down similar legislation under the previous government was nothing more than a stunt designed to disrupt the Parliament, for which it blamed the former member for Frankston, Geoff Shaw. That delay has created issues within the jury system and for the people of Victoria. That legislation could have improved communication between judges and jurors, refined processes and reduced waiting times and delays. Those opposite should hang their heads in shame that we have had to wait 12 months to get this legislation back into the house.

The purposes of the bill are to reduce the complexity of jury directions in criminal trials and to provide simplicity and clarity. Making things simpler and clearer is important in any system, but particularly here where jurors are giving their time to engage in a democratic process. I have not personally been on a jury, but I know other members have. This bill will make sure the correct directions are given in a manner jurors can understand so that they can be correctly applied in deliberations.

The bill changes the law on identification evidence directions. It changes the law on directions on delay and forensic disadvantage by replacing section 165B of the Evidence Act 2008. It introduces new jury directions for rape and sexual assault cases. There are also clauses that apply to delay and credibility in sexual offence cases. We have heard members talk about this — delay in reporting a sexual offence does not diminish the offence or the credibility of the complainant, and it is important that improvements are made to ensure that jurors understand this. The bill also includes directions relevant only to trials involving family violence, replicating the effect of new directions inserted into the Jury Directions Act 2013. There is more reform to be done — the shadow Attorney‑General, the member for Hawthorn, has pointed out the need for reform in legislation dealing with sexual offenders and community corrections orders, and there is obviously further strengthening needed in terms of the bail system to ensure that our community not only feels safer but is safer.

The member for Footscray in her contribution referred to crime rates going up under the former government. I want to point out the correlation between the increase in police numbers by more than 1800 in that term of government and increased reporting and detection of crime. It would be very short‑sighted to deny that correlation, and if those opposite do not understand it, perhaps they should not be in government right now. We have also seen an increased focus by police on family violence and sexual assault, with new systems being introduced so women and men feel more comfortable reporting violence. They can trust the system, and if they come forward, they know they will be taken seriously. These measures mean an increase in reporting. Obviously I do not want to see an increase in crime, but reporting levels should be commensurate with incident levels in our community.

I participated in debate on the jury directions bills introduced in 2013 and 2014 only to see them voted down. It is disappointing for us as legislators, and for our community, that members of this government voted that legislation down and it has now reintroduced it. That speaks volumes about this government and its stance on law and order.