Crimes Amendment (Carjacking and Home Invasion) Bill 2016

Mr CARROLL (Niddrie) — It is my pleasure to be the government’s lead speaker on the Crimes Amendment (Carjacking and Home Invasion) Bill 2016. At the outset I want to state the case that the Andrews Labor government is very concerned about recent serious criminal offending, which has involved people breaking into people’s homes and dragging people out of their cars. There is absolutely no place for this sort of behaviour. All Victorians, all members of our community and all members of our local electorates should feel safe and secure in their own homes. All Victorians should be able to drive around without fear of being set upon by criminals.

This legislation is very important. It responds to recent incidents of home invasions and carjackings. Sadly these incidents have also been very close to home in my own electorate. The bill creates four new offences: home invasion, aggravated home invasion, carjacking and aggravated carjacking. The bill also creates a statutory minimum sentence of three years for both aggravated carjacking and aggravated home invasion. The bill amends the Bail Act 1977 to include aggravated carjacking, home invasion and aggravated home invasion as show‑cause offences. The Bail Act is also further amended to clarify the operation of the show‑cause provisions when a person is charged with certain related offences, including burglary.

Carjacking and home invasion, without doubt, have had a traumatic effect not only on victims but on the broader community right throughout Victoria. The Andrews Labor government is determined and very clear that we want to send a very strong message that such activities will not be tolerated under our government. People have a right to feel safe in their homes and while driving. We want to make sure that our laws reaffirm the government’s commitment to community safety and security. Following very well publicised incidents on the nightly news and in our newspapers, we are certain that we have the right reforms and investments in our police resources to make sure our laws are up to date with the community’s expectations. We are introducing these new offences and penalties because this is what Victoria needs.

This bill does create new offences of carjacking, aggravated carjacking, home invasion and aggravated home invasion. The seriousness of these offences is recognised, and we believe that aggravated carjacking and aggravated home invasion warrant statutory minimum sentences of three years for these offences. As I said, we are also making sure that we make the right amendments to the Bail Act to ensure that when these offences are committed the offence carries a maximum penalty and the prison term is enforced.

I will begin with home invasion first. The bill creates a new offence of home invasion. The offence of home invasion will be made out when a person enters a home as a trespasser in company with another and is intending to steal something, to assault a person in the home or to damage something, and there is a person present in that residence. The offence is also made out if the offender is armed; however, if the offender is armed, there is no need to prove that another person is present at home.

In relation to the carjacking offence, a person will be guilty of carjacking when they steal a vehicle and, immediately before the time of doing so and in order to do so, they use force on another person or they or another offender put another person in fear that they or anyone else will then be subject to force. ‘Vehicle’ includes a motor vehicle and a vessel. The offence carries a maximum period of imprisonment of 15 years. A person will be guilty of the offence of aggravated carjacking when they commit a carjacking and at the time have with them a firearm, imitation firearm, offensive firearm or an explosive or imitation explosive in the course of the carjacking and cause injury to another person. The definition of ‘offensive weapon’ includes any article that is made or adapted for use in causing injury or that is intended to be used or adapted for that purpose. This will cover bats, crowbars or any other objects used in an aggravated carjacking.

The bill specifically introduces an element of strict liability into the offence of home invasion so that an offender’s knowledge of the presence of another person is irrelevant. This is deliberate and is a responsive way for the government to ensure that we properly recognise the traumatic effect on victims. It is unacceptable for someone to feel unsafe in their own home. It would be even worse to actually be confronted by strangers in what should be a person’s sanctuary. We are very certain that we want to make sure that the definition of home is broad enough to also cover rooming houses, caravans and hotels. It is intended to cover any building in which a person lives.

The penalty for the new offence of home invasion is a maximum of 25 years imprisonment. That is the same penalty as for aggravated burglary. The offence of aggravated burglary remains on the statute books as it is. It will cover a single offender entering a residence and any aggravated burglary of a commercial premises.

The bill also introduces the offence of aggravated home invasion. This offence has been created to capture the most serious instances of home invasions and will be committed when: the offender was acting as part of a gang of three or more people; the offender had a weapon; there were people in the home; and the offender knew or was reckless as to whether there were people in the home. Like home invasion, this offence has a 25‑year maximum penalty, but it also carries a statutory minimum sentence of three years imprisonment.

In relation to bail it is very important that we make sure when a person is arrested for an offence that they are entitled to bail. However, we must recognise that for a certain class of offences that presumption is displaced and a person must show cause as to why they should be granted bail. The amendments to the Bail Act add the offences of home invasion, aggravated home invasion and aggravated carjacking to those offences for which a person must show cause why bail should be granted. In addition, the bill amends the existing show‑cause provision to clarify that a person charged with aggravated burglary or with any indictable offence where the commission of the offence involved the use of firearms or other weapons must show cause as to why bail should be granted. Some of these offences and sentences may be considered too harsh, but we do believe that as a government we have a role to play to ensure offenders do not take any risks and when they decide on these acts of criminality they face the full force of the law. We have examined the existing laws and concluded there are modifications needed to respond to recent incidents of criminal offending.

I, as the state member for Niddrie, was horrified when even in my own electorate in July a couple was held up in Airport West and another in nearby Essendon. I watched the nightly news that night and I could not believe it was happening in my community. I am very proud that the government is bringing forward this legislation — it is very important, it is critical. I want to thank a range of constituents who have contacted me over this legislation, including Kieran Fitzpatrick of Niddrie and Dean Kalimniou of Keilor East, who, on behalf of his local residents in Nicholas Court, wrote a very well‑crafted letter to me, which I have responded to, concerning his local community’s needs. I also thank Maryanne Born of Essendon; Gino Munari of Aberfeldie, with whom I have had several discussions — Gino has given lots of practical advice to me, and I have really appreciated that; also Laurie Ziros of Airport West and Leandros Ziros of Essendon. They have all made very well‑meaning approaches to me and we have had a lot of discussion and communication back and forth by email.

In the remaining minutes I have I want to address a couple of issues raised by the member for Box Hill. I understand that he has circulated amendments on behalf of the opposition and is very much seeking to increase the statutory minimum non‑parole periods of three years for carjacking and five years for aggravated carjacking. We believe, as a government, we do have the balance right, that the levels that have been set are right and that we are ensuring that on the statute book the offences are given the recognition they deserve. We do believe that the offence of causing serious injury in circumstances of gross violence, which has a statutory minimum period of four years, is a serious offence as this can result in someone being seriously injured. We do believe that it would be a bridge too far for the offence of aggravated carjacking, which does not require any injury at all, to have a higher statutory minimum than an offence which has an element that includes inflicting serious harm. We do not believe it is appropriate to apply a statutory minimum penalty to the offence of carjacking. This is not consistent with the hierarchy of offences set out in the bill. It is sufficient for the aggravated versions of the offences to include statutory minimum sentences.

We believe — as a Labor government committed to making sure our laws are capable in the 21st century of meeting the community’s expectations, with record investments in police resources and our corrections system — that we have the balance right. I think this is very important legislation. I commend the Attorney‑General, the Minister for Police, the Premier and the whole cabinet for bringing forward this important legislation dealing with carjacking and home invasion. It is important that this bill gets passed. It is very important that the police and our courts have all the resources they need at their disposal. I commend the bill to the house.