SA lawyers clash with police

By Reporter|03 February 2012

The Law Society of South Australia has criticised Police Commissioner Mal Hyde’s reaction to the shooting of bikie leader Vince Focarelli.

Focarelli survived a fourth attempt on his life this week, prompting Commissioner Hyde to accuse the courts of being soft on bikies and issuing lean sentences to violent offenders.

Hyde said "patchy" court sentences were hampering police efforts to combat bikie violence and lock away offenders.

Law Society president Ralph Bonig said the accusation was a "populist attack".

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"This is not the first time the Police Commissioner has criticised sentences imposed by our courts," Bonig said.

"This is nothing more than a populist attack on an easy target, which the statistics show is unjustified."

Bonig said an Australian Bureau of Statistics report, Prisoners in Australia, showed that SA had the longest median aggregate jail term, of almost five years per sentence, in Australia.

"We also have the longest time per sentence spent in jail and the second highest proportional increase in offenders sentenced to prison in this country", Bonig said, adding that the Law Society “objects strongly to such unjustified criticism of the courts”.

Director of Public Prosecutions Stephen Pallaras also rebutted the Commissioner’s claim, saying the sentences imposed on bikies were not the "real problem" in tackling the violence.

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“You have to look at it case by case,” Pallaras told ABC Adelaide 891 Radio.

"If it really is a real standout poor decision, then we have the option of entering an appeal or seeking leave to appeal against a decision and getting it increased.

“I don't think that is the real problem … I think the problem is the fact that guns exist and we don't do anything about it.”

Pallaras said the SA Government must tackle outlaw motorcycle gangs from the bottom line and focus on getting rid of guns from the streets and in the community.

SA lawyers clash with police
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