TAS Parliament Considers Dangerous Criminals and High Risk Offenders Bill 2020 

Thursday 3 December 2020 @ 3.15 p.m. | Judiciary, Legal Profession & Procedure | Legal Research

After being initially introduced to Tasmania’s House of Assembly on 18 August 2020 by the Minister for Justice, Elise Archer, the Dangerous Criminals and High Risk Offenders Bill 2020 (the “Bill”) has passed the Legislative Council (with amendments) on 12 November 2020.

The Bill proposes consequential amendments to the following Acts:

  • Annulled Convictions Act 2003;
  • Corrections Act 1997;
  • Court Security Act 2017;
  • Custodial Inspector Act 2016; and
  • Sentencing Act 1997.

Background to the Bill

According to the Bill’s Explanatory Memorandum, the object of the Bill is to “repeal the current dangerous criminal declaration provisions in the Sentencing Act 1997 and [establish] new standalone legislation, the Dangerous Criminals and High Risk Offenders Act”.  The Bill also “updates Tasmania’s legislative framework for indefinite detention of dangerous criminals and introduces a new, second-tier scheme that provides for post-sentence supervision of serious sex and violence offenders, referred to as high risk offenders, within the community”.

Dangerous Criminals

The Bill confirms that an application for a dangerous criminal declaration may be made at the time an offender is convicted or sentenced for a crime involving violence (or an element of violence), or at the time they are “serving a custodial sentence for that crime, or a custodial sentence for another crime that is being served concurrently or cumulatively with that sentence”.

The new provisions remove the current requirement that a “dangerous criminal declaration” may only be made by the convicting or sentencing judge, allowing greater flexibility for the Director of Public Prosecutions ("DPP") to make an application when it is warranted.

High Risk Offenders

The new second-tier scheme contained in the Bill enables the DPP to apply for High Risk Offender ("HRO") orders in relation to serious offenders who do not meet the threshold for being declared a dangerous criminal, but may nevertheless pose a risk to the community if no supervising conditions are in place when they are released post-sentence.

The Bill provides that the safety of the community must be the Court’s paramount consideration in determining whether to make an HRO order and provides that, where the Court makes an HRO order, it must impose a set of mandatory conditions on the offender including “reporting and residential conditions, permitting police to enter premises and conduct searches, not leaving the State without approval, and complying with directions by a probation officer to engage in treatment, counselling or other activities”.

As outlined in The Advocate, the Bill removes the current requirement that a dangerous criminal declaration may only be made by the convicting or sentencing judge allowing greater flexibility for the DPP to make an application when warranted.

An offender who is subject to a dangerous criminal declaration cannot be released from custody while the declaration is in place.

Establishment of a new Committee

To support the new provisions, the Bill also establishes the High Risk Offenders Assessment Committee (“Committee”), which will include representatives from relevant Government agencies. The Bill provides for these agencies to co-operate and exchange information as required to manage and supervise offenders who are subject to HRO orders. The Committee will also facilitate behavioural reports, management reports and risk assessments in relation to offenders, which will inform the DPP’s decision on whether to apply for an HRO order and be provided to the Supreme Court when HRO order applications are made and when reviews of dangerous criminal declarations are undertaken.

The Community Consultation Process

Community consultation and submissions were open from 23 December 2019 and closed on 14 February 2020, with submissions being received from five interested parties. The Tasmanian Government made a number of changes to the Bill to take into account feedback received during the consultation process.

Comment and Reaction to the Bill

In a Media Release, Minister for Justice Elise Arthur said:

“This Bill will ensure offenders are dealt with in a manner consistent with community expectations and provides for a new legislative framework for dealing with dangerous criminals and high risk offenders of serious crimes. This legislation creates a two tier scheme by removing unnecessary restrictions that require a dangerous criminal declaration to be made only by the convicting or sentencing judge, and will see several other reforms to Tasmania’s legislative framework for indefinite detention and preventative detention.”

Speaking to The Advocate, Prisoners Legal Service Tasmanian Chairman Greg Barns said the Bill provided an easier pathway for a court to revoke orders, Mr Barns said:

“The PLS [Prisoners Legal Service] referred the issue of the gross unfairness of the existing 1993 law which meant is was virtually impossible for the person on an order to have it revoked.”

Mr Barns said the PLS was opposed to detention without trial because it breached fundamental human rights.

TimeBase is an independent, privately owned Australian legal publisher specialising in the online delivery of accurate, comprehensive and innovative legislation research tools including LawOne and unique Point-in-Time Products. Nothing on this website should be construed as legal advice and does not substitute for the advice of competent legal counsel.


Related Articles: