The Tasmanian Government has a plan to keep Tasmanians safe and our efforts have this week been strengthened by the passing of the Dangerous Criminals and High Risk Offenders Bill 2020 by the Tasmanian Parliament.
This Bill provides for a new legislative framework for dealing with dangerous criminals and serious high risk offenders, and removes unnecessary restrictions that require a dangerous criminal declaration to be made only by the convicting or sentencing judge.
Our Government has already completed a number of reforms with the well-being, safety and security of victims and survivors front and centre, including legislation to address one-punch incidents, the creation of a new offence of persistent family violence, amending Section 194K of the Evidence Act 2001 to provide victims of sexual assault the right to speak out publicly should they wish to do so, and numerous criminal and civil reforms as a result of our commitment to the findings and recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse.
I am pleased the Premier, during his State of the State address, also announced $1.3 million to introduce body scanning technology in the Hobart and Launceston Reception Prisons and the Risdon Prison site, as well as Ashley Youth Detention Centre.
This technology will minimise the need for personal searches in custody – a move positively welcomed by the Commissioner for Children and Young People.
Personal searches are currently necessary for the security and good order of any prison facility. They not only stop potentially harmful items, such as drugs and weapons, entering the prison system, but they also reduce the risk of suicide and self-harm.
The new body scanners will be another tool to help ensure the safety of our correctional staff, as well as prisoners and detainees. The new scanners are able to detect objects on or inside a person’s body and clothing, without the need to physically remove clothing or make any physical contact with the person being searched, providing a less intrusive process for personal searches.
Last year, I announced that draft legislation designed to protect young people in custody had been released for public comment.
The Youth Justice Amendment (Searches in Custody) Bill 2020 is part of the Government’s response to the Commissioner for Children and Young People’s memorandum of advice to the Government in relation to the searches of children and young people in custody in custodial facilities.
The amendments are intended to minimise any associated trauma, distress or harm in relation to searches of youth conducted in custodial facilities in Tasmania.
We want to go further though and implement steps that minimise the need for personal searches in the first place. Therefore, the introduction of body scanners into our prison facilities will lead to increased safety and security for staff, prisoners and detainees, and minimise the requirement for personal searching.
Our Government will continue to implement actions that keep our community safe and we will continue to make such positive law reform.
Elise Archer, Attorney-General