Presumed innocent goes up in smoke

CLA is concerned at the creeping trend throughout Australia to make more offences subject to “strict liability”. That is government lawyer speak: it means that, under these new types of laws, you have to prove you are innocent rather than the government proving you are guilty, which has traditionally been the basis of Australian law. Here, in a letter responding to CLA’s criticisms, is how the ACT Chief Minister tries to justify proposed new and badly-written laws over smoking in cars.CM Katy Gallagher says that “It is acknowledged that this places a burden on the defendant but it is not considered to be a particularly onerous one”. Considered by whom? Most defendants will find the provision very onerous. She also says that “it is envisaged that police officers will take steps to establish the age of all people in the car before any enforcement action is taken”. It may be “envisaged”, but it is very bad law when it is hoped – not legislated – for police to behave in a certain manner.

She also says it is “unlikely” that drivers and passengers will not know the ages of other people in the car. That’s just plain nonsense, because many young people most at risk of being caught by this draconian legislation are prone to telling people they are older than they actually are.

This is bad law-making, and the relevant clauses should be revised before being enacted, CLA says.

 

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