The Law Society of South Australia made submissions in relation to the Protection and Wellbeing of Children and Young People (Oversight and Advocacy Bodies) Bill 2016, the Criminal Law Consolidation (Mental Impairment) Amendment Bill 2016, the Births, Deaths and Marriages (Gender Identity) Amendment Bill 2016 and the Sentencing Bill 2016.
Firstly, the Protection and Wellbeing of Children and Young People (Oversight and Advocacy Bodies) Bill 2016 proposes the appointment of a commissioner for children and young people and the consolidation of the work of the Guardian for Children and Young People and the Child Death and Serious Injury Review Committee into a single act of Parliament.
While the Law Society supports the inclusion of a children’s commissioner in the bill, it contends that the commissioner should be empowered to investigate individual complaints that may highlight systemic issues.
Rather, is supports the ability of the commissioner or guardian to help children navigate the adult-centric offices of the Ombudsman and Health and Community Services Complaints Commissioner (HCSCC).
Secondly, the Criminal Law Consolidation (Mental Impairment) Amendment Bill 2016 would preclude those found to be mentally incompetent whose conduct was caused by self-induced intoxication.
The Law Society’s view is that the bill ignores medical evidence about the relationship between substance use and mental illness, and effectively disregards recognised medical conditions such as drug-induced psychotic disorder.
It believes that precluding self-induced intoxication would expose more people to the grave injustice of being found guilty of a crime where they were not mentally competent to commit the offence.
Thirdly, the Births, Deaths and Marriages (Gender Identity) Amendment Bill 2016 would facilitate and streamline the process for people wanting to change their sex or gender on the register of births, deaths and marriages.
The Law Society fully supports the introduction of this bill, which adopts several recommendations from the South Australian Law Reform Institute’s inquiry into laws that discriminate against people based on sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and intersex status.
The bill is a natural step towards equal rights for LGTBIQ people, who deserve to be free from discrimination, according to the Law Society.
Lastly, the Sentencing Bill 2016 will reform legislation that deals with the sentencing of offenders in SA.
While the Law Society has a number of concerns with the Sentencing Bill, it supports the overall intention of the proposed laws, which broaden the sentencing options available for offenders.
The introduction of greater community-based sentencing options gives courts greater powers to give appropriate sentences to offenders. Increasing the focus on community-based rehabilitation will reduce repeat offending and make the community safer, according to the Law Society, which is the primary objective of sentencing.