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AUS: Crimes At Sea

Thursday 30 September 1999

The Federal Government introduced a new Crimes at Sea Bill into Parliament today which will simplify the work of Australia's law enforcement agencies in prosecuting offenders who commit crimes at sea.

"Under the new scheme, if a crime is committed within 200 nautical miles of a state or territories shoreline or within the outer limit of the continental shelf, the laws of that state will apply." Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Amanda Vanstone said.

"The existing scheme is complicated, confusing and difficult because when a crime is committed offshore, the law which applies often depends on the state to which the vessel is connected".

"This is not always easy to determine and often the law which applies will not be the law of the state adjacent to where the crime occurred and where the trial will take place."

The Minister said the new, simplified scheme would be easier for our law enforcement agencies to work with and it will be more effective because all jurisdictions have agreed to enter into arrangements for enforcing the criminal law offshore.

Concerns about the adequacy of the existing scheme date back to 1990 when the Law Reform Commission remarked on the flaws in the scheme in its report on Criminal Admiralty Jurisdiction and Prize.

"It is most important, particularly in the lead up to the Olympic games, for Australia to have in place a modern, workable and easily understood crimes at sea scheme," Senator Vanstone said.

The new scheme was developed through the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General and is based on a proposal prepared by the Commonwealth, State and Northern Territory Solicitors-General.

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