The Victorian Government's mandatory sentencing proposals will lead to greater crime rates and turn jails into "schools for crime", according to the Law Institute of Victoria (LIV).
Law societies across Australia, including the Law Council of Australia, have urged the Government to abandon its plans to introduce statutory minimum sentences for the offences of intentionally causing serious injury and recklessly causing serious injury, when either offence is committed with gross violence, and to retain judges' and magistrates' discretion.
According to LIV president Caroline Counsel, Australian lawyers are united in their opposition to the proposals.
"These laws currently being considered by the Sentencing Advisory Council would be so broad they would trap many people, particularly young people, into a life of crime," said Counsel.
"Sentencing youths to mandatory two-year terms is likely to lead to greater crime rates in the long run as youth justice centres and prisons become schools for crime."
According to the LIV, members of the Law Societies of New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania, South Australia and the Northern Territory have strongly opposed the proposals, arguing that qualified, experienced and independent judicial officers are best placed to impose the appropriate sentence, taking into account individual circumstances of the case.
"The Law Council of Australia has long taken the view that mandatory sentencing represents an affront to established principles of criminal justice, particularly in view of Australia's international human rights obligations," said LCA president Alexander Ward.
"Mandatory sentencing reduces the incentive for offenders to plead guilty and can lead to an increased case load for the courts. Mandatory sentencing also prevents judges from imposing an appropriate penalty based on the unique circumstances of each offence and offender."
LIV has produced a submission to the Sentencing Advisory Council as well as a more comprehensive response to Attorney-General Robert Clark, arguing that experience in Australia illustrates that mandatory sentencing is not effective in reducing crime.