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Tuesday, 30 June 1903

Mr DEAKIN - The honorable member for Kennedy has presented a new sub-clause, which he desires to move in an amended form. I think the Committee may accept it, with a view to seeing how it will look when we consider a clean print of the Bill. The provision, as it is proposed to amend it, and which I now move, will read as follows : -

Any person committed for trial for an indictable offence against the laws of the Commonwealth may at any time within fourteen days after committal, and before the jury is sworn, apply to a Justice in chambers, or to the Supreme Court of a State, for the appointment of counsel for his defence. If it be found to the satisfaction of the Justice or court that such person is without adequate means to provide defence for himself, and that it is desirable in the interests of justice that such an appointment should be made, the Justice or court shall certify this to the Attorney-General, who may, if he thinks fit, thereupon cause arrangements to be made for the defence of the accused person.

Mr Poynton - Why say " may " cause arrangements to be made? Why not substitute the word "shall?"

Mr DEAKIN - Because such a provision would involve an unknown expenditure. In agreeing to the amendment in the form I have indicated, I am taking a long step in advance of any similar legislation in Australia, and am a little doubtful whether it may not be abused.

Mr Page - The Attorney-General could say that in reference to every law.

Mr DEAKIN - That is so, but it is applicable to this proposal more than to most. We have a double safeguard, inasmuch as, first of all, the Judge or court must be satisfied that the accused is without means, and that it is a case which ought to be defended, and then, should anything be subsequently discovered, the AttorneyGeneral has the opportunity, if he takes the responsibility, of saying that in spite of the recommendation made the man shall not be allotted counsel. There is no doubt that the cases in which this privilege islikely to be applied for and granted will be of some moment, not only to the individual, but to the Commonwealth, seeing that they may involve sittings of some days' duration and consequent expense. This is a new proposal for Australia, and if it proves to work well, either in this form or as it may be amended, it will be easily possible to extend its operation afterwards. We shall probably see very few criminal cases for years to come, but it is undesirable that, in consenting to accept liability for persons indicted, we should commit the revenue of the Commonwealth to unknown expenditure.

Mr Isaacs - Does the provision apply to offenders, no matter how often they may have been convicted ? /

Mr DEAKIN - At present the provision does so apply.'

Mr Isaacs - It only shows the necessity of allowing some discretion.

Mr DEAKIN - The Attorney-General will exercise discretion, and in the case of an offender who has been convicted three or four times the privilege is not likely to be granted.

Mr O'Malley - A - A man who has been presented three or four times for offences may require more defending than any one else.

Mr DEAKIN - I am sure the Committee will be unanimous in the opinion that, because of poverty, a man charged with a serious offence must not be subject to any injustice. If a man can satisfy the court or Judge and the Attorney-General that it is in the interests of justice he should be defended at the expense of the Commonwealth, he ought to be so defended.

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