NEW ACT laws that see serious offences such as murder, manslaughter and serious sexual offences face jury trials has been detailed today to the annual Crown Prosecutors’ Conference in Canberra.
Attorney General Simon Corbell addressed the conference and explained why the ACT Government believed jury trials should be the norm for serious criminal offences as opposed to judge-alone trials.
“The Government has a strong view that jury trials are a key feature in our justice system, and judge-alone trials by election have become the predominant form of trial for serious matters, which is not the intention of changes to the laws in the early ’90s,” Mr Corbell said.
Currently, there are about 350 Crown prosecutors in Australia, and most deal with more serious crimes that could be dealt with under this new legislation in the ACT.
Mr Corbell said in cases where there was significant pre-trial publicity that could prejudice a fair trial or cases involving complex and lengthy legal issues could still be heard by judge-alone.
“Currently we see more than 50 per cent of serious matters heard by judge-alone at the request of defendants, the highest rate in any Australian jurisdiction. This was not the intention of the laws and the ACT Government has passed legislation to ensure that the original intent is achieved.”