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Wednesday, 23 May 1973
Page: 2475

Mr FITZPATRICK (DARLING, NEW SOUTH WALES) - My question is directed to the Acting Attorney-General. I ask: In view of the recent statements attributed to the Minister and the AttorneyGeneral concerning reform in the courts of petty sessions of the Australian Capital Territory, can the Minister inform the House whether any steps are being taken to dissociate policemen from those courts except where they appear as witnesses? Is it intended that the present police prosecutors should continue prosecuting while remaining members of the police force or are changes contemplated?

Mr ENDERBY (Minister for the Northern Territory) - Yes, certain decisions have been taken along the lines suggested by the honourable member in his question. Honourable members would know that in courts of petty sessions throughout Australia it has been a long standing practice to have the prosecuting work done by members of the police force. That is a practice which has often been criticised because it tends to suggest that the courts are not independent but rather police courts, as they were once known many years ago in New South Wales. That practice has always been justified on the basis of cheapness.

It is the view of the Attorney-General and the Government generally that the training and the work performed by policemen is far too important and specialised to allow some of them to spend their time just doing attendants work around the courts. The prosecuting role is primarily a matter for lawyers who have a more apparent independent role in the administration of justice. The decision has been taken that the police prosecuting section of the Australian Capital Territory Police Force should be incorporated into the Deputy Crown Solicitor's Office and cease to be a part of the police force. This will lead in time to the development of an independent type of prosecuting section there that will not be a part of the police force. Policemen are so often involved as witnesses and it sometimes gives rise to concern amongst litigants and accused persons. The other decision that has been taken is that police attendants should be replaced by court attendants who are sheriffs' officers in non police uniforms.

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