THE AUSTRALIAN Law Reform Commission (ALRC) has condemned laws dealing with the sentencing of federal offenders, claiming they are inconsistent, convoluted and confusing.
The comments coincide with the ALRC’s release of a community consultation paper, Sentencing of Federal Offenders, which forms the first stage of a major review of the federal sentencing laws set out in the Commonwealth Crimes Act.
A recent growth in the number and range of federal offences demands a fair and smooth sentencing regime, said ALRC president David Weisbrot. He said that while federal offences have long been associated with a limited range of crimes such as drug importation, tax evasion and social security fraud, new federal regulations now also cover criminal activity in areas such as terrorism, transnational crime, cyber crime and computer hacking.
The inquiry will examine problems with relevant sections of the Crimes Act, which the judiciary has strongly criticised for its “poor drafting, inflexibility, and lack of sufficient scope”, said Weisbrot.
As well, the inquiry will consider to what extent federal offenders should be treated equally, despite where in Australia they are sentenced. Currently, federal offenders are usually dealt with by State and Territory courts, and their sentences are administered by State and Territory correctional authorities. This means, said Weisbrot, that “significant disparities can and do arise”.