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Criminal Organisation Bill changes the justice system and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty

December 1, 2009

Cunningham fears new legislation

THE Member for Gladstone, Liz Cunningham, fears newly passed legislation has changed the Queensland justice system and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

Yesterday, Mrs Cunningham said the Criminal Organisation Bill, in her opinion, “dramatically changed the presumption of innocence in our justice system”.

“When this Bill was previewed in the media before it went to Parliament it was introduced as a means of controlling outlaw motorcycle gangs,” she said. “But the Bill doesn’t mention these gangs at all.”

Mrs Cunningham extensively debated the issue in Parliament last week. She said she did so because community members had expressed their concern about the bill and the expectation she would respond to it.

“They (members of the community) cannot be accused of not wanting good law-and-order measures, quite the opposite, but they also value their rights and freedoms,” she told Parliament.

“They do not want to see this fundamental intrusion on law that has been in existence, tested and proven for over 100 years.”

Mrs Cunningham said the bill intends to give intrusive and unacceptable powers to the police.

“The majority of police officers are as honest as the day is long, but with these powers conferred in this bill, I believe that, for a small number of police officers who have ill intent; it not only gives them significant power, but also gives them significant protection.”

She said in respect of “criminal intelligence” referred to in the bill, the person about whom intelligence has been collected will have no access to the information, and neither will his/her legal representation.

“It is a significant change in the process of law in this state for the accused person not to be able to answer the accusations.”

She also objected to reference to fortification removal orders meant to apply to excessive fortification, such as bars on doors and windows.

Mrs Cunningham suggested that the definition was too broad and could lead to injustice. She said this could occur for such people as the elderly, fearing for their safety, consenting to what might be seen as excessive fortification.

The Bill was passed along party lines with the support also of Independent Peter Wellington. The Opposition and the independents voted against the bill.

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