Friday, June 01, 2007


So what do I mean when I say "Reforms to ensure consistency in sentencing and the delivery of real justice."?

I suppose I believe that the balance of the criminal justice system prioritises crimes against property over those against the person. How often do you hear about armed robber getting a suspended sentence? And I think we need to look are refocusing sentencing so that custodial sentences are for those who are violent and a danger to society.

We should explore non-custodial options for non-violent offenders who aren’t a danger to society.

I'm not suggesting that politicians hand down sentences, far from it. I would not like to see the minister for justice or anyone else interfering in court proceedings.

I would suggest the DPP is staffed by professionals and that they should be able to ask for a sentence appropriate to the seriousness of the particular offence compared to the sentencing norms that would be established by reviewing previous sentences. And that is reflective of the nature of the crime committed. However, if you wanted to know what the average sentence for assault was in 1995 there is no point in asking the department of justice as no one had been tracking some ploddingly trivialities like who got how long for doing what. So the department does not know what the norms are because they’re not tracking sentence.

Victims of crime should be consulted and advised of the progress of the case though they should be able to opt out of this if they so choose but we should not have cases where someone is released back into the community without the victims being aware of it. This happens all too often and for victims of sexual crimes seeing their assailant back in their home town without warning is just unacceptable.

if you wanted to know what the average sentence for assault was in 1995 there is no point in asking the department of justice as no one had been tracking some ploddingly trivialities like who got what for doing what.

The aim of the criminal justice system is meant to be summed up in the terms Punishment, Protection of society, and Rehabilitation. Prison on its own makes us as a society feel good but the question remains does it do any good.

It seems odd that whenever alternatives to prison are suggested people lose the plot; whether it is ankle bracelets, curfews, or random testing for drugs. We seem to have both on the left and the right of the political debate a belief that it is prison or nothing. As free citizens we have many rights including the right to liberty which could be curbed in the case of those convicted of non violent offences. Why for example should we not prevent someone from consuming of alcohol if they are convicted of an alcohol related crime?

In combination with this, we need to realise that if we are prepared to spend X millions on prison then we need to commit to similar expenditure on prevention and that means educational opportunities and family supports. Justice is more than just building prisons and introducing new laws. It is about the application of the law.


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