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Minister Martin Pakula - Travel Report England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland, September 2016

Minister’s name Hon Martin Pakula
Portfolio/s Attorney-General and Minister for Racing
Did the Minister’s spouse accompany the minister in an official capacity? No
Accompanying ministerial staff Ms Andrea David, Senior Advisor
Countries visited London ENGLAND
Edinburgh and Glasgow SCOTLAND
Belfast NORTHERN IRELAND
Dublin REPUBLIC OF IRELAND
Date of travel 3 September to 13 September 2016
Number of official travel days (include day of departure and day of return) 11 days
Funding source (list Department/s or Agency) Department of Justice and Regulation
Air fares (including taxes and fees) $26,660.52
Accommodation (including taxes and fees) $7,418.57
Other expenses (including surface travel and travel allowances) $14,979.81
Travel cost for Minister and ministerial staff $49,058.90*

*The above costs are not final and complete

Purpose of travel

Attorney-General

The English, Scottish, Northern Irish legal systems have a shared history with the Victorian system and retain similarities in both structure and law. The main purpose of the trip was to see how similar jurisdictions to Victoria have implemented innovative polices and organisational frameworks to best address challenging justice issues in Victoria.  Sentencing, youth offending, support for victims, family violence and access to justice are all key areas of focus for the Victorian government. All of the jurisdictions visited are grappling with the same issues.

Sentencing is a complex and difficult issue, particularly in relation to the best way to ensure that sentencing practices reflect community expectations.  The Sentencing Council of England and Wales and the Scottish Sentencing Council provide an approach to sentencing guidance which is quite different from how this issue is dealt with in Victoria. The Sentencing Advisory Council, in its 2016 report, Sentencing Guidance in Victoria, referred favourably to sentencing councils in the United Kingdom. This visit provided an opportunity to meet with representatives from the Sentencing Council of England and Wales and the Scottish Sentencing Council to learn about the establishment and operation of the councils.

The Sentencing Council of England and Wales has been in operation since April 2010 and has developed a number of guidelines across a range of offences. In contrast, the Scottish Sentencing Council was established in 2015 and is yet to publish its first guideline. Visiting both councils provided an opportunity to compare their experiences through the process of establishment and acceptance by the legal community and the public more generally.

Youth offending in Victoria follows a similar trend to England and Wales, with a decrease in youth crime overall but a particular cohort committing more frequent and serious offences.The Attorney-General discussed the difficulty of appropriate responses to the more serious offenders with Lord McNally, Chair of the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales, a public body which oversees the youth justice system in England and Wales. The need for appropriate interventions at the right time for the individual and the importance of having information shared across a number of agencies with different responsibilities toward the same child were among the issues discussed.

The Victorian Government is committed to ensuring that victims of crime are supported through the criminal justice system and the Attorney-General met with the Director and senior staff of the Crown Prosecution Service for England and Wales to discuss their innovative practices in this area. In particular, the Speaking with Victims at Court guidance note and the Right of Review for victims where there is a decision not to prosecute. While these innovations required cultural as well as operational change, they have been positively received and in the case of the guidance note have led to greater consistency and better practices in relation to the experience of victims negotiating the criminal justice system.

Improving the experience of victims is a particular issue in relation to family violence. The members of the Belfast Domestic & Sexual Violence and Abuse Partnership provided insight into the difficulties that face women who have experienced family violence. The women in the partnership raised the importance of agencies working together and sharing information, but that this needs to happen quickly, as the risk to women and their children can escalate suddenly. Northern Ireland, like Victoria, is experiencing a significant increase in the reporting of family violence and the concern is that resourcing needs to keep up with demand. The Attorney-General was able to discuss the report of the Royal Commission into Family Violence and the Government’s commitment to implement all its recommendations.

A number of meetings were in relation to access to justice and the different models for providing legal assistance services from London and Northern Ireland. The Attorney-General had the opportunity to consider the English model in discussions with the Chief Executive of the Legal Aid Agency and his senior staff. The Legal Aid Agency is an agency of the Ministry of Justice which means there is much greater government control than is the case in Victoria. The Attorney-General also met with senior bureaucrats to discuss the Access to Justice Review Part II in Belfast which provided some insight into the challenges of funding legal aid in a sustainable manner into the future.

Racing

Racing contributes over $2.8 billion annually in economic activity to Victoria, with over 114,000 people directly involved as employees and participants.

The Irish thoroughbred industry had a direct economic contribution of €1.1 billion in 2012. At the same time, there was 14,000 full time equivalent staff employed directly in the industry.

There are already strong links between the Victorian and Irish racing industries, with 25 Irish trained horses running in the Melbourne Cup since 1993 when Dermot Weld was the first internationally based trainer to win the Cup with Vintage Crop. He repeated his success with Media Puzzle in 2002. 

Further strengthening relationships with the Irish racing industry through discussions with key officials and racing industry experts will further enhance what is already a major economic driver for this State.

Benefits of travel to the State of Victoria

Attorney-General

The visit provided an opportunity to establish positive relationships with a number of justice related government officials, independent bodies and independent agencies. While in the United Kingdom, the Attorney-General met with senior representatives of the:

  • Belfast Area Domestic & Sexual Violence and Abuse Partnership
  • Centre for Justice Innovation
  • Legal Aid Agency
  • Northern Ireland Department of Justice
  • Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service
  • Scottish Justice Board
  • Scottish Sentencing Council
  • Scottish Violence Reduction Unit
  • Sentencing Council for England and Wales
  • Youth Justice Board for England and Wales.

The Attorney-General also met with the UK Minister of State for Courts and Justice and Director of Public Prosecutions, Crown Prosecution Service, England and Wales.  All those involved in the meetings were generous with their time, and in sharing the cultural, operational and budgetary issues that are part of administering a modern, robust justice system. 

The outcomes from these meetings in informing the development of effective justice responses will be of significant benefit the Victorian community.  The opportunity to obtain practical insights from those developing and implementing policy and legislation in the justice space will assist the Attorney-General in considering the best approaches from similar jurisdictions on issues such as legal assistance, problem solving courts, approaches to sentencing guidance, victims’ rights and youth offending and making informed decisions about how best to adapt international innovations in the Victorian context. The relationships established will ensure that this exchange of ideas and information will continue into the future and inform on-going improvements to the justice system.

The work being undertaken by many of the organisations consulted provided excellent examples of the value of collaboration between agencies and departments, and the role that government can play to facilitate holistic approaches to justice.

For example, Scotland has had significant success in reducing offending by young people and reducing the number of children in custody. The Scottish Justice Board provided an opportunity to discuss how departments and agencies can work together and take a broader system approach to reducing offending. Also in Scotland, meeting with the Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) reinforced the benefits of looking beyond the traditional justice levers of police and courts and adopting a preventative public health approach to violence. This does not mean the justice system is unimportant as ensuring that the right laws, policies and practices are in place allowed the VRU to shift the focus to building resilience through early intervention and interaction with the families and schools of at-risk young people. There are opportunities to draw on these approaches to improve the Victorian response to community safety.

Some of the meetings will also provide a context for reports currently under consideration by the Victorian government. For example, the discussions with the Director of Public Prosecutions in England will provide context for Government’s consideration of the Victorian Law Reform Commission’s final report on the Role of Victims of Crime in the Criminal Trial Process. 

Racing

The Minister engaged with key industry figures while attending the Longines Irish Champions Race Day, the Longines Irish Champions Committee Dinner, and the Palmerstown House Estate Irish St. Leger. The Victorian thoroughbred racing and breeding industries have a strong history of engagement with the UK and Ireland. The internationalisation of Victoria’s racing product has encouraged owners and trainers from all parts of Europe to race their horses here and to invest in Victoria’s breeding sector.

The Minister had the opportunity to meet with Ms Meta Osbourne while attending the Palmerstown House Estate Irish St. Leger at the Curragh Racecourse. Ms Osbourne is the first female Senior Steward of the Turf Club, the regulatory body for horseracing in Ireland. Ms Osbourne joined the Club in 2005 and has served on its Referrals Committee, Appeals Body and also on the Curragh Committee.  She is a past President of the Irish Veterinary Association and was the first female President of the Veterinary Council of Ireland. The Minister and Ms Osbourne discussed the approaches in Australia and Ireland to promoting integrity in the racing industry to maintain public confidence in the sport and gambling markets. Ms Osbourne subsequently visited Melbourne during the Spring Racing Carnival.

This year’s Spring Racing Carnival saw another four Irish trained horses run, with Sir Issac Newton in the Caulfield Cup and Heartbreak City, Wicklow Brave and Bondi Beach running in the Melbourne Cup. Two of the trainers, Aidan O’Brien and Willie Mullins, have made repeated trips for the Spring Carnival.

Next steps / follow up

Attorney-General


Next steps will be to consider how the laws and practices which have been successful in the United Kingdom and Ireland might be adapted to the Victorian criminal justice framework, in particular:

  • analysis and consultation to inform how English/Welsh and Scottish approaches to sentencing guidance might be adaptable to the Victorian context
  • consultation on how victims and witnesses might be better supported through the criminal justice process following discussions with the Director of Public Prosecutions in England (This work will provide context for Government’s consideration of the Victorian Law Reform Commission’s final report on the Role of Victims of Crime in the Criminal Trial Process.)
  • consideration of how the English and Northern Irish models of legal assistance might provide guidance in the government’s examination of the recommendations of the Access to Justice Report
  • consideration of the transferability aspects of the Scottish Violence Reduction model as part of a broader, system-wide approach to criminal justice.

Racing

The Minister will continue to work with the Victorian racing industry to promote Victorian racing on the international stage.

 

Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander flags

The department acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the Traditional Custodians of the land and acknowledges and pays respect to their Elders, past and present.