Written on the 30 April 2014

THE QUEENSLAND Law Society (QLS) has condemned the state government’s mandatory sentencing policy, saying it won’t prevent crime.

Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson threw his support behind the QLS at the launch of its policy paper in April.

“Australia’s political system is founded on a clear separation of powers whereby the power of government is balanced between the legislature and executive that establish laws, and the judiciary who interprets these laws.

“The implementation of mandatory sentencing means that the terms of sentencing, a key aspect of interpreting laws, are determined by the executive and are not reviewable by the courts,” Wilson says.

“It is designed to preserve and protect the freedom of all individuals from the abuse of government power.”

Wilson says there are a number of alternatives to consider, including social support programs, diversionary programs to avoid court, education and non-custodial sentencing.

“I understand that governments take this approach to mandatory sentencing because they want to be seen by their constituents as being tough on crime.

“But mandatory sentencing laws do not provide a solution – instead they stifle the role of courts to review and interpret the laws. Governments instead create arbitrary sentencing laws that are often not proportionate to the crime and do not allow sentencing judges to consider mitigating factors.”

Wilson says it’s essentially giving power to centralised government, instead of decentralised independent agents who are more informed in justice.

The QLS believes it will also create a financial burden, with the estimation that it costs $190 a day to keep someone in prison – or nearly $70,000 each year.

There will be no incentive to plead guilty for a sentence reduction, resulting in more court expenses and strain on resources.





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