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Submissions on civil penalties: Commonwealth v Director, Fair Work Building Industry Inspectorate [2015] HCA 46

The High Court in Commonwealth of Australia v Director, Fair Work Building Industry Inspectorate held that regulators and respondents in civil penalty proceedings can agree a penalty, and that provided the Court is satisfied as to the appropriateness of the agreed penalty, it may impose it. The High Court expressly distinguished Barbaro v The Queen, which was concerned with criminal sentencing.

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Federal sentencing: The Queen v Pham

Federal offenders are almost exclusively dealt with in State courts. In some matters courts have compared criminality in federal offending and state offending. As a result of this there has been some divergence in the range of sentences across the states and territories. The High Court in The Queen v Pham [2015] HCA 39 held offenders should be sentenced in accordance with the range of sentences across all states and territories.

The High Court also affirmed the proposition that quantity of drugs is not the sole determiner of the appropriate sentence.

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Foreign investment in Australian property

On 2 May 2015 the federal Treasurer, the Hon Joe Hockey MP, announced a reduced penalty period (running from 2 May to 30 November 2015) in which people who have purchased Australian real estate without the necessary approval (or contrary to the conditions on an approval) under the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act 1975 (Cth) can come forward and voluntarily disclose. The government is also aiming to amend the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act 1975 to increase criminal penalties and add civil penalties.

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Use of compulsory examination material – High Court decision in Lee v R pending

The NSW Crime Commission disclosed transcript of Mr Lee’s compulsory examination to the Police and the Crown Prosecutor in his criminal trial. Mr Lee was convicted. The New South Wales Court of Criminal Appeal dismissed his appeal against conviction. He appealed to the High Court and it is that decision which is now to be handed down on 21 May 2014.

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