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Friday, 23 October 1931

Mr. BRENNAN(Batman- AttorneyGeneral [12.38]. - I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

This is- a short bill of two substantive clauses. The first proposes to extend the facilities for the interstate service of summons and for the taking of proceedings subsequent to the service of the summons; the second makes provision for the execution of warrants for the apprehension or commitment of certain witnesses who fail to appear and give evidence. The main object of the Service and Execution of Process Act is to provide for the service and execution throughout the Commonwealth of the civil and criminal process and judgments of the courts of the States and of other parts of the Commonwealth. The facilities thus provided ure, to some extent, limited by the provision in section 15 of the act, that the summonses which it is desired to serve in another State must be issued by a court, a judge, or a police, stipendiary, or special magistrate, to the exclusion of a justice of the peace. This limitation has caused considerable inconvenience in certain horder towns of northern New South Wales, which are visited infrequently by a police magistrate. At these towns, police and other informants may have to wait for three months to issue process, and then another three months to have the information heard. The" only alternative is for the informant to travel from 80 to 120 miles to interview a police magistrate. A case is on record of two informants who travelled from Tenterfield to Glen Innes to have summonses issued in order to secure the attendance of Queensland witnesses at Tenterfield in connexion with certain proceedings there. Sub-section three of section 15 provides that all such proceedings may be taken as if a summons had been served in the State in which it was issued in any case where the person summoned fails to appear, and, in the opinion of the authority by whom the summons was issued, the summons was duly served on the defendant in sufficient time before the date fixed for the hearing of the matter. In section 3 of the act a "court" is defined as including any judge or justice of the peace acting judicially. As the issue of a summons is a ministerial act, it is considered that a justice of the peace cannot be treated as a court for the purposes of section 15. Accordingly, clause 2 proposes to enlarge the scope of section 3 5 by authorizing the service in any State of a summons issued by a justice of the peace of any other State, and also the taking of all proceedings consequent on the service of such summons. Section 3 8 of the act relates to the backing of warrants for execution in a State or part of the Commonwealth other than that State or part where the warrants were originally issued. The classes of cases in which warrants may be so executed are set out in the section, but none of the eases thus set out appears to cover that in which a warrant is desired for the apprehension or commitment of a person who fails to appear and give evidence, or to produce books or documents' in a civil or criminal trial or proceeding, when duly summoned to do so. Thus, in the case of a summons served under the law of New South Wales, for example, there is no means of executing a warrant for the apprehension of a. person so summoned who fails to appear, and eventually leaves that State. The absence of such witness may defeat the ends of justice, and by the insertion in section 18 of the words set out in clause 3 it is thought that absconding witnesses will be brought within the purview of this section.

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