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Mandatory life sentences undermines judiciary
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Mandatory life sentences undermines judiciary

The Law Society of NSW has criticised proposed mandatory life sentences for convicted police killers in NSW as "lacking thought".Last week the NSW Government introduced a bill into Parliament…

The Law Society of NSW has criticised proposed mandatory life sentences for convicted police killers in NSW as "lacking thought".

Last week the NSW Government introduced a bill into Parliament that would make life sentences mandatory for anyone convicted of murdering a police officer.

The Law Society of NSW has written to a host of NSW parliamentarians, including the Attorney-General and Minster for Justice, Greg Smith, to voice its concerns at the proposed legislation. In those letters, the Law Society criticised the Bill as being unnecessary and possibly leading to higher rates of acquittals - as the legislation would provide powerful disincentives for people to plead guilty.

"The legislation is unnecessary, it undermines the proper role of the judiciary, it will not deter offenders and may have serious consequences from a law enforcement and prosecution perspective," wrote Law Society of NSW president Stuart Westgarth.

He said that some of the unintended consequences of the Bill would be providing no incentives for an accused person to co-operate with authorities, to make it more difficult to apprehend suspects due to the prospect of those people facing life in prison if caught, and that mandatory life sentences would remove any incentive for an offender to be of good behaviour during the sentence or to rehabilitate or educate themselves.

"Mandatory sentences have been considered and rejected by sentencing law reviews conducted by the Australian Law Reform Commission and the NSW Law Reform Commission," said Westgarth. "It is widely recognised that mandatory sentences do not deter offenders. The government has provided no objective research or other evidence in support of its proposal."

In introducing a motion to read the Crimes Amendment (Murder of Police Officers) Bill 2011 in NSW Parliament on 26 May, police and emergency services Minister Michael Gallacher said that "an attack on a police officer undertaking their duty is an assault on the very heart of our system of law enforcement and democracy".

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