In a letter to the Attorney-General Martin Pakula, the LIV strongly condemned any assault on emergency workers, health workers and prison officers but argued that the Justice Legislation Miscellaneous Amendment Bill is likely to contravene the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities.
It says proposed changes will disproportionately affect vulnerable members of the community, including those those suffering mental health issues, individuals involved in the child protection system, and young people who have suffered abuse and trauma.
“Mandatory sentencing takes away equality before the law by limiting what relevant facts can be considered, such as a defendant’s personal circumstances, likelihood of recidivism and rehabilitation prospects.
“This impact will be compounded in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and other young people who are over represented in the child protection and youth justice system, and other over-policed groups such as the Victorian African community.”
Under the proposed legislation, assaults that would normally be considered low-level offences and tried summarily will be elevated to a category inclusive of rape and murder. “Reckless injury” as is referred in the legislation, could be interpreted as mere physical contact, scratching or bruising and needs to be better defined, according to the LIV.
“The LIV firmly believes that Victoria’s magistrates and judges must have discretion when it comes to sentencing and have the flexibility to deal with every case on an individual basis and not be forced to hand down mandatory sentences.”