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Wednesday, 29 November 1905

Mr WILSON (Corangamite) - I agree with some of the arguments of the honorable member for Wentworth, but I disagree with "others. For example, he asked why a fine, in lieu of imprisonment, should not be imposed for the offences mentioned in this clause. I contend that the Committee ought to steadfastly set its face against any suggestion of that sort. It may very easily happen that a person occupying a good position may commit forgery!, and in such circumstances even a fine of ^100 would not constitute adequate punishment. It would be perfectly ridiculous to fine a man £100 for committing an offence that might enable him to make thousands of pounds. I hold that the Court should be given power to impose a very severe sentence for an offence under this clause. If the amendment be accepted, the Court will be at liberty to make the punishment fit the crime.

Mr. GLYNN(Angas\ - I do not think that it is necessary to debate the proposal made by the honorable member for Wentworth. Gradations of forgery are recognised by the ordinary Crimes Acts, and forgery of certain documents is punished with greater severity than is the forgery of others. The offence dealt with in this clause is morally, although not technically, equivalent to forgery, and three years' imprisonment will be the maximum penalty. It will be open to. a Judge, in dealing with an offence against this clause, which he does not regard as a serious one, to order a short term of imprisonment, and, under the Acts Interpretation Act, without hard labour,

Mr. KELLY(Wentworth).- If there be different kinds of forgery, the type with which this clause deals may possibly be one that we should punish with the utmost rigour. The average case of forgery affects the rights of only one man, but the forgery of a trade mark would affect the rights, perhaps, of a whole community. I have the utmost diffidence in putting my views in this regard against those of members of the legal profession.

Mr Spence - Would the honorable member sentence a man to five years' imprisonment for forging a union label ?

Mr KELLY - I should give a Judge full discretion to impose up to five years' imprisonment for the forgery of any label. The position put by the honorable and learned member for Angas is not a new one. The Judge dealing with the offence is the proper authority to discuss the extent of the offender's culpability. Some honorable members have failed to recognise that, where there is a possibility of making a great profit by wrong-doing, a severe penalty must be provided as a deterrent.

Mr McCay - What large profit could be made by doing any of the acts forbidden by this clause?

Mr Crouch - It deals merely with an offence against the register.

Mr KELLY - Any offence under this clause must necessarily be an offence against the community, since a trade mark is a guarantee of value to the consumer. If we increase the penalty from three to five years' imprisonment, it will still be open to a Judge dealing with an offence under the clause to refrain from imposing the maximum sentence. Surely we can trust our courts with the proper administration of justice. Surely we do not desire to have one set of penalties for the rich and another for the poor. A wretched bank clerk, drawing £60 per annum, who forges a cheque for £5, may be imprisoned for ten years, and yet it is proposed that, in the case of a rich corporation, which may, by uttering a forgery, gain many thousands of pounds, the maximum penalty for the offence shall be only three years' imprisonment.

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