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LIV calls for sentencing rethink

LIV calls for sentencing rethink

The Law Institute of Victoria (LIV) has pleaded with the State Government to rethink its commitment to baseline sentencing.Acting LIV president Michael Holcroft called the proposal for baseline…

The Law Institute of Victoria (LIV) has pleaded with the State Government to rethink its commitment to baseline sentencing.

Acting LIV president Michael Holcroft called the proposal for baseline sentencing a "confusing and punitive scheme" which will not be effective in deterring crime.

"While studies have shown that the threat of imprisonment may generate a small deterrent effect, increasing the severity of sentences or the length of sentences does not produce any more deterrence," he said.

In April 2011 the Victorian Government asked the Sentencing Advisory Council (SAC) to advise on the introduction of "baseline" sentences, or non-parole imprisonment periods, for serious and significant offences, including murder, manslaughter, intentionally causing serious injury, armed robbery and serious sexual offences, arson, recklessly causing serious injury, aggravated burglary and major drug trafficking.

The SAC is no longer accepting submissions on the proposal and the Government is awaiting its recommendation.

In its submission on the proposals, the LIV opposed the introduction of baseline sentences, despite the fact similar schemes already exist in New South Wales, the Northern Territory and South Australia.

"We believe that the schemes unduly limit judicial discretion, over-complicate the sentencing process and fail to deter crime," Holcroft said.

"If introduced, baseline sentencing will require judges to undergo complicated mental gymnastics to analyse offences to determine whether they fall within a low, mid or high range of seriousness.

Holcroft said he also believes baseline sentencing will "disappoint" victims of crime and unduly raise their expectations.

The LIV pointed out what it believes to be numerous other flaws with the proposal, including that it results in overcharging by police to encourage successful plea negotiations; greater difficulty in defendants securing bail for a wider range of offences; pressure on defendants to plead guilty; more cases being heard in superior courts which causes delays and additional costs; and longer sentences leading to increased prison and corrections costs.

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