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Wednesday, 18 November 1959

Sir GARFIELD BARWICK (Parramatta) (Attorney-General) . - This ground in this form is in operation in several States. It has been the subject of some judicial interpretation. After a slight fluctuation of view, the consensus of opinion now seems to be that a man who has a number of convictions in respect of which the total sentences which, whether they are concurrent or cumulative, aggregate three years, and who has habitually left the other party without reasonable means of support, commits the matrimonial offence covered by this paragraph.

The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) asked me last night whether the concurrent sentences were aggregated, and I said, " Yes ". That is in conformity with the decisions. As I understand the honorable member, he now asks me to consider the case of a man who has committed a series of acts at the one time and arising out of one event. The prosecution may charge him in various ways, and the result may be that he will receive a number of sentences, all made concurrent and perhaps strictly relating only to one incident. The honorable member asks me whether in that event it would not be fairer to make some qualification of this ground so as not to treat those several convictions arising out of the one incident as being frequent convictions for the purposes of this paragraph.

Of course, you get concurrent sentences in other circumstances. A lad may burgle a group of houses in one week, remain quiet for a month and then burgle another group of houses. He may be brought to trial in respect of both groups before the one judge, who fixes a sentence and says, " I sentence you to eighteen months on each of these charges, and the sentences will be concurrent". In that event, it would be very right to treat those punishments as frequent convictions, because the lad really committed a series of distinct crimes.

The draft suggestion which the honorable member for Mackellar has shown to me, and which he has circulated--

Mr Wentworth - It has not been circulated.

Sir GARFIELD BARWICK - Well, the draft suggestion which the honorable member has shown to me would, in my opinion, cover too much and cut into this ground too far. But I am not averse to considering, if the honorable member will allow me to do so, whether there should be some qualification of this ground inrelation to those concurrent sentences which really represent but one offence, in substance. If the honorable member will accept my assurance, I shall look into this matter between now and the time when the bill is in another place, and I shall alsodiscuss the point with the honorable member. If at that point of time he is content, or I am content, or both of us are content, to make some amendment, I shall see that something is done in another place rather than take up the time of the committeenow.

Mr Wentworth - That will be acceptable to me.

Paragraph agreed to.

Paragraph (h).

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