Mr WILLIAM McKAY VICTIM COMPENSATION PAYMENT
Mr CHAPPELL (Northern Tablelands) [4.49 p.m.]: I have previously raised with the Attorney General the case of my constituent Mr William McKay of 45 Grey Street, Glen Innes. I raise the matter again in view of what Mr McKay clearly considers to be an unsatisfactory reply by the Attorney General, particularly addressing the question of principle that he has raised, even if Mr McKay has virtually accepted the fact that he will be stuck with paying a substantial contribution towards the Victims Compensation Tribunal. The details are simply that my constituent was involved in a scuffle that led to him being charged for assault occasioning grievous bodily harm. That matter went to court and was dealt with. Evidence was heard and the trial judge found that no reasonable jury would convict on the charge. The charge was, of course, dismissed. However, on advice, Mr McKay did plead guilty to a lesser charge of common assault. On that basis, following several different processes over time, he was required to pay to the Victims Compensation Tribunal some $10,500, which sum was eventually reduced to $3,000.
Mr McKay's point seems to be logical, hence I raise it again in the hope that the Attorney General might take this issue on board and consider the principle involved. Mr McKay was charged with an offence of assault causing grievous bodily harm. The matter went to court and the court found in favour of my constituent; in other words, he was found not guilty of occasioning actual bodily harm. However, because of section 42(2) of the Victims Compensation Act, when a conviction is held, even if it is subject to section 556A of the Crimes Act first-offence clause, the person can still be required to make that contribution to the Victims Compensation Tribunal. Mr McKay is saying clearly that the court has found him not guilty. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge only on legal advice. Mr McKay also says that he was advised by an officer of the court that he had no right to appeal against that - although he did of course have that right - and that by the time he found out that he had the right of appeal the time for his appeal had passed.
Mr McKay says a technicality with the Victims Compensation Act obliges people exonerated of a charge of causing actual bodily harm to pay compensation to the tribunal and, therefore, to the victim even though they are not guilty. Mr McKay is perfectly right to again raise that issue with me and ask me to draw it to the attention of the Attorney General. He says that there is a logical absurdity in the law, but not in the way it was administered on this occasion, because he has accepted legal advice that it is correct in law, as it stands, for the Victims Compensation Tribunal to charge him. Mr McKay says that the law is wrong.
The second point and main reason for raising this matter is to try to see that real justice is done. My constituent claims that he had evidence to present at the proper tribunal hearing to demonstrate that, though he admits to a bit of a scuffle and assault, it was a two-way event. The only reason he pushed back against the other party was to protect his wife, otherwise he would have been pushed on to his wife, who was sitting on adjacent steps. He resisted the push and, consequently, the other party fell back and injured his wrist - there is some doubt whether that was a new or old injury.
Mr McKay pleaded guilty, but in substance says he was not guilty of any offence because of this technicality. After hearing all the evidence the court found him not guilty of assault occasioning actual bodily harm. Therefore, he believes he should not have to pay that compensation. He has asked that the principles under section 42(2) of the Victims Compensation Act be reviewed so that people in a similar position will not in future be required to pay to the Victims Compensation Tribunal. I shall put the matter in writing, but I have placed it on the record to demonstrate that justice appears to have been denied to my constituent.