THE PEAK body representing the legal profession has condemned recent criticisms of criminal sentencing, arguing they are based on ignorance of the law.
Reacting to State Opposition calls for a mandatory sentencing regime, The Law Society of New South Wales claimed the idea is ill conceived and discriminatory.
In an interview with Alan Jones on 2GB radio last week, Opposition leader John Brogden said the Liberal Party has made it clear that if it gets into government it will introduce mandatory sentencing. “We will restrict the capacity of judges to have discretion, and where you have murder cases, serious violent crimes and major drug crimes, we will put in place this system of compulsory sentencing, a minimum sentence that’s in place that judges cannot go below,” Brogden said.
But according to NSW Law Society president John McIntyre, sentencing criminals should never be a ‘one size fits all’ approach. “The court is required to take into account a myriad of factors, including the accused’s criminal history or good character record and remorsefulness or lack of it,” he said. He added that comparisons between individual cases are not useful unless they report all relevant facts.
“Sentencing is not intended to be the inflicting of revenge on behalf of the public. Its objective is to protect the community, deter other potential offenders and give a criminal the opportunity to be rehabilitated,” said McIntyre.
If mandatory sentencing were introduced, McIntyre said, “battered wives” and people with mental illnesses not severe enough to justify a finding of not guilty on the grounds of insanity could be unfairly sentenced to long terms of imprisonment.
The Northern Territory’s Country Liberal Party (CLP) said last week it too would re-introduce mandatory sentencing should it gain government in the next election. It would introduce a three strikes policy for property crime, the Daily Telegraph reported, and target public drunkenness, child abuse and petrol sniffing.
The proposed move had previously been condemned by lawyers, the State’s Government and Aboriginal leaders in the Northern Territory. The Telegraph quoted Territory Chief Minister Clare Martin, who said mandatory sentencing did not work. “If the CLP wants to return to the past with a strategy that didn’t work, then that simple is an indication that they’re not looking forward for Territorians,” she said.
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