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Punishing offenders twice pointless, politicians warned

The president of the Law Society of NSW has warned legislators from other states about adopting continuing detention and extended supervision orders.

user iconMelissa Coade 14 December 2017 The Bar
Punishing offenders twice pointless, politicians warned
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Law Society of NSW president Pauline Wright (pictured) has expressed “serious concern” about recent moves to extend continuing detention orders in NSW.

Ms Wright said in a statement last week that the Law Society opposed the proposal for continuing detention orders to be recognised nationally.

“Continuing detention orders are extraordinary measures that are outside of the judicial sentencing framework,” Ms Wright said.


No matter how expert a judge may be in making decisions, Ms Wright said this was insufficient to accurately predict an offender’s future behaviour. She described the process as notoriously difficult, adding that efforts to reduce crime would be better served with programs for imprisoned offenders.

“Punishment for potential future acts is not an appropriate way to manage behaviour or reduce recidivism in our already overcrowded jails.

“Resources would be better spent on programs in jails to properly equip people to fit back into society when they finish their sentence, and on supervision programs following release,” Ms Wright said.

The Law Society president said she was particularly concerned that these measures could lead to indefinite detention. This risked offending the principle of proportionality, where a punishment should be proportionate to crime, she said. 

“To keep people in jail after they have served their sentence goes against the basic principle that we should only be punished for things we have done, not things we might do in the future.

“Imprisonment should be limited to offenders who present only the most serious risk to society,” Ms Wright said.

While the Law Society supported efforts to protect Australians from high-risk offenders, Ms Wright said it was important to recognise what measures did and did not work.

“In a liberal democracy like Australia, people should only be imprisoned for crimes they have committed, or if they have had bail refused after being charged with a serious crime pending their trial.

“The Law Society continues to oppose the use of continuing detention and extended supervision orders should be used with caution.”