This article was produced by the Commission and appeared in the April 2008 issue of the Law Institute journal.
Retired judge Geoff Eames joins the jury directions project and four Victorian Law Reform Commission inspired Bills make it to Parliament.
Geoff Eames on juries
Retired Supreme Court judge, The Hon Geoffrey Eames QC, has been appointed to work on the Victorian Law Reform Commission’s jury directions review as a consultant.
The Commission received the reference in January this year and has been asked to review and to recommend any procedural, administrative and legislative changes that may simplify, shorten or otherwise improve the charges, directions and warnings given by judges to juries in criminal trials.
In particular, the Commission has been asked to:
• identify directions or warnings which may no longer be required or could be simplified
• consider whether judges should be required to warn or direct the jury on matters that are not raised in the trial
• clarify the extent to which the judge need summarise the evidence for the jury.
Mr Eames has been an acting judge in the Northern Territory since his retirement from the court in 2007.
A new look and design for the Commission’s website was launched in February.
The new site contains all the information that was on the old site, as well as access to all of the Commission’s publications, online submission forms, a full list of speeches, and implementation news on completed references.
The Commission welcomes comments and suggestions about the content, functioning and accessibility of the new site.
Law reform to legislation
The Victorian Government has foreshadowed legislation it intends to introduce to Parliament this year, including four Bills based on Commission reports.
The February 2008 Annual Statement of Government Intentions includes an Evidence Bill, a Bill on Access to Assisted Reproductive Technology and Surrogacy, and a Family Violence Bill. The government has also foreshadowed a Bill to reform abortion law once it receives the Commission’sLaw of Abortion: Final Report.
The Evidence Bill will be based on the joint report written by the Victorian, Australian and New South Wales law reform commissions, and the Victorian Law Reform Commission’s Implementing the Uniform Evidence Act: Report.
The Bill will introduce the version of the uniform Evidence Act agreed upon at the July 2007 Standing Committee of Attorneys-General, respond to parliamentary committee recommendations and remove inconsistencies with other legislation. It will introduce changes to the law about hearsay, admissions, professional confidential relationships privilege, the privilege against self-incrimination and jury warnings.
The Assisted Reproductive Technology and Surrogacy Bill will adopt the Commission’s “key recommendations” from its 2007 final report. This report made 130 recommendations to create a new legislative framework that is flexible enough to cope with evolving technology and practices while protecting the best interests of children.
The recommendations cover laws governing access to fertility treatment clinics, recognition of parental status, sperm and egg donations, access to information about donors, access to adoption, surrogacy, and using people’s sperm and eggs after they die.
Following on from the Commission’s 2006 Review of Family Violence Law: Report, the government will introduce a Family Violence Bill that picks up on the recommendations to provide purposes and principles in the Act, ensure people can be protected from family violence and amend the definitions of family violence and family members.
Final reports on the way
The Commission has finished writing its Civil Justice Review Stage One: Report and Law of Abortion: Report and delivered them to the Attorney-General.
The government has 14 sitting days of Parliament to table the reports, which means they should both be released in the next two months.