Reform Recap – November / December 2018

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Overview

A number of reforms have been passed by NSW Parliament over the last two months. The following is a summary of some key legislative changes.

Increased arson penalties

Individuals who deliberately light a fire and are reckless as to whether the fire spreads may find themselves facing a prison sentence of more than two decades under new laws passed in NSW Parliament in November.

The offence of lighting a bushfire is contained in section 203E of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW). The maximum penalty for this offence has now been raised from 14 years to 21 years.

NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman outlined that the penalty increase comes in anticipation of a fire season that is “expected to be one of the most challenging the State has experienced”.

Dolly’s Law

The NSW Parliament has amended the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act to clarify that the criminal offences of stalking and intimidation intended to cause fear of physical or mental harm extend to cyberbullying.

Individuals found guilty of these offences may face a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment.

The amendments were given the name ‘Dolly’s Law’ as a tribute to Amy ‘Dolly’ Everett who committed suicide in January.

The amendments aim to make it easier for victims to take out Apprehended Violence Orders (AVOs) against alleged perpetrators.

Concealing child sex abuse

Until recently, the maximum penalty for failing to report child abuse without a reasonable excuse was two years imprisonment.

Mr Speakman has announced that amendments to section 316A of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) will increase the maximum penalty to at least five years; and seven years where the defendant has concealed the abuse for “a benefit”.

A statement released by the NSW Department of Justice outlined that these amendments impose the toughest penalties for concealing child sex abuse in Australia.

Child Sexual Offence Evidence Pilot to continue

The pilot program that has been tested in Newcastle and Sydney District Courts since March 2016 will be extended until June 2022 following an independent assessment which concluded that the program resulted in a better quality of evidence from child witnesses.

The program provides victims and child witnesses with specialist intermediaries to assist them with answering questions from police and lawyers. It also allows for evidence to be pre-recorded in advance of a trial.

Ban on use of drones above prisons

The NSW parliament has passed a bill to amend the Crimes (Administration Sentences) Act 1999, the Children (Detention Centres Act) 1987 and associated regulations which make it a clear offence to possess or fly a drone at a prison or juvenile centre without permission.

If you would like more information on the above reforms or need advice or representation for a criminal matter please contact Hamilton Janke Lawyers 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 4038 1666 (office hours) or 0422 050 502 (24/7).

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