The Victorian Attorney-General's proposal to draw from the results of an online survey to set minimum sentences for certain offences is little more than a "burst of populism" being displayed by a new government, according to the Australian Lawyers for Human Rights.
The ALHR made the claim in response to a proposal by Victorian Attorney-General Robert Clark to use a Department of Justice survey, being conducted within the Herald Sun, to assist in setting new minimum sentencing standards.
Clark told The Age that "too often the debate about sentencing is dominated by experts and interest groups", adding that sentencing is currently too far removed from community expectations.
Stephen Keim SC, president of the ALHR, expressed concern at the plan, and urged the Victorian Government to move past its current attempts at "populism" and return to the "time honoured principles for which Liberal Conservatism has been known".
He said that any proposal to increase the use of minimum sentences would hinder the courts from sentencing individuals in accordance with the circumstances surrounding a crime.
Keim added that that public perception regarding sentencing standards is significantly hampered by "selective and incomplete" reporting by the media.
"Often, individuals who were outraged after reading reports of cases take a very different and more benign view when the full facts are explained to them," he said.
Finally, Keim said that online polling is the least reliable indicator of public opinion.
"Usually, it is those whose enthusiasm is charged by extreme views on a subject who respond, often more than once, to such polls. In addition, it is not unheard of that political parties and interest groups seek to skew such poll results for their own advantage," he said.
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