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Element of intent must remain in new Conflict of Interest offences
The Local Government Association of Queensland is urging the Palaszczuk Government ensure the element of intent remains part of planned new conflict of interest offences currently before State Parliament.
Councillors could face up to two years in jail if they fail to comply with certain conflict of interest or register of interest requirements with an intent to dishonestly gain a benefit for themselves or someone else, or to dishonestly cause a detriment to someone else, under the proposed changes.
LGAQ CEO Greg Hallam said councils supported the introduction of the new offences to help ensure accountability and transparency.
But Mr Hallam said including the element of intent was critical as it would ensure innocent mistakes, errors of judgement or administrative oversights were not criminalised as a result of the reforms.
“Elected representatives are entitled to natural justice and a presumption of innocence. Removing the element of intent would see them essentially considered guilty until proven innocent,” Mr Hallam said.
“We cannot have a situation where councillors are hauled before the courts for an administrative oversight, when there was no intention to act dishonestly in order to benefit themselves or others.
“I urge the Government not to bow to pressure and remove the element of intent from the new offences.”
This is not just the LGAQ’s view.
Leading criminal lawyer and former Queensland Law Society president Bill Potts agreed intent should remain an element of the new offences.
“It is, with rare exceptions, in the criminal law a bed rock principal that the prosecution who seek to deter and punish behaviours must prove that the citizen intended to commit the offence,” Mr Potts said.
“Call it deliberate dishonesty or fraudulent, as a society we recognise that that mistakes occur outside the knowledge or control of the individual.
“Prosecutions with criminal penalties should only occur where intention is clearly established.”
Local Government Association of Queensland
LG House, 25 Evelyn Street, Newstead Qld 4006
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