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Council yet to resolve big issue

Council yet to resolve big issue

Victoria's Sentencing Advisory Council (the Council) has had an extremely productive year, according to its annual report, despite being embroiled in controversy regarding mandatory sentencing…

Victoria's Sentencing Advisory Council (the Council) has had an extremely productive year, according to its annual report, despite being embroiled in controversy regarding mandatory sentencing proposals.

The Council released its annual report for the 2010/11 financial year yesterday (12 October), in which many of its achievements are outlined.

One of the Council's major achievements, according to the report, was the release of the virtual "You be the Judge" program: an interactive forum allowing online visitors to assume the role of a judge in a sentencing hearing. According to the report, over 4,000 people used the program during its first six months.

One of the Council's more controversial roles, however, is yet to be resolved.

Earlier this year, the Victorian Government asked the Council to consider a proposal for mandatory sentencing for the offences of intentionally or recklessly causing serious injury, when the offence is committed with "gross violence".

This drew much criticism from the legal community, as well as calls for the Council to reject the proposals.

The Council is yet to deliver its advice on the proposals, but the report said it had achieved "significant progress" towards doing so.

The Law Council of Australia and the Law Institute of Victoria have urged the Government to abandon plans to introduce such sentences and to retain judges' and magistrates' discretion.

"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 LIV president Caroline Counsel at the time.

"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."

The report also outlines the Council's publication of a series on community attitudes to sentencing, as well as a report showing that prison sentences are only minimally effective in deterring crime.

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