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Thursday, 23 November 1911


Senator ST LEDGER (Queensland) . - It must be evident to honorable senators that the time within which prosecutions for offences under this measure must be commenced is either considerably too short or considerably too long. The Minister may be aware of the fact that lapse of time is no bar to a prosecution for an indictable offence. Speaking generally, unless there is some express provision to the contrary effect in the measure itself, the offences provided for are indictable. But I draw attention to another aspect of the case. The clause says that a prosecution may be commenced at any time within three years after the commission of the offence. But I ask the Committee to note how trifling in many respects the offences are. Some of them merely affect portions of the administrative machinery. Instances have been mentioned during the debate. Yet the Government propose to extend the time within which prosecutions may be commenced to three years. I admit that some grievous offences against society may be committed in connexion with the electoral law. Yet the time for commencing prosecutions in such serious cases may be the same as that prescribed for an infringement of a pe"tty regulation. It may be said to be almost an invariable rule in legislation to make the time not longer than six months. I believe that is the case in regard to larceny and similar offences. After six months no prosecution can be commenced. We must take it that the Government have had some reason for extending the time, but I should like to know what that reason is. Considering the variety of offences that may be committed, and how widely they differ in character, I am justified in saying that the time is either too long or too short. I ask the Minister to consent to recast this provision, or else to give some reasons for it.







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