The Law Society Northern Territory has issued a warning over mandatory sentencing, saying it hasn’t reduced crime or the possibilities of reoffending.
The legal body has responded to recent media attention which highlighted the need to increase mandatory sentences of imprisonment for assaults on police officers.
“Northern Territory courts lock up more people than anywhere else in Australia and it hasn’t reduced crime or reoffending,” said NT Law Society president Tass Liveris.
“We are all seeing our imprisonment and reoffending rates continually going up. Our Indigenous imprisonment rate is in crisis.
“Making sentencing laws even harsher is not going to stop assaults or make the community any safer; it will only make these problems worse.”
Mr Liveris noted that the territory already has strict mandatory minimum imprisonment terms for assaults.
The maximum penalties are higher for assaults on police on duty and even greater again if the officer suffers harm or serious harm, he noted.
“This recognises the greater seriousness of assaults committed on police, who are often vulnerable to abuse and who perform a difficult job for the benefit of the community.”
In addition, Mr Liveris said that mandatory sentencing does not deter offending and has no general deterrent effect, adding that imprisonment is also extremely expensive.
“The actual and hidden costs of mandatory sentencing are alarming,” he said.
“The government could employ a senior classroom teacher for the same cost of keeping one person in jail every year.
“Rather than spend the community’s money on putting people in jail, governments need to invest in strategies to address issues such as drug and alcohol abuse, which we see time and time again as features in crimes, especially assaults on police.
“Increased jail sentences will not cure the problem. As an entire community, we need to focus on the root causes of criminal behaviour, so that we can start to see some positive change.”