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LIV President's Blog
February 10, 2011

Response to Alan Howe's column

This week I wrote a letter to the editor of the Herald Sun in response to Alan Howe's column published on Monday 7 February 2011. 

An edited version of the letter has been published today, Thursday 10 February 2011.

The Law Institute of Victoria is concerned by Alan Howe’s column on judicial sentencing.

Mr Howe would have us believe our worst criminals are literally getting away with murder. They are not.

Victorians are being well-served by the judiciary and the sentences handed down. Sentencing is not taken lightly by judges. It is a delicate balancing act which must take into account punishment, deterrence, rehabilitation, denunciation, protection of the community and an offenders’ circumstances. With so many variables to consider, it is crucial that judicial discretion be upheld and not erased by draconian legislation.

Because judges rarely impose sentences of life imprisonment does not mean there is a law and order crisis in Victoria. In rare instances where there is concern that a sentence is too lenient, there is an avenue to address those concerns. It is called the Court of Appeal.

Research by University of Melbourne academic Austen Lovegrove (pdf) shows that when the public knows all the circumstances of a case they mostly deliver the same or a more lenient sentence than the judge.

Respect for the courts and their officers is a cornerstone of democracy. To wage personal attacks on judges and second-guess their decisions is disrespectful. It encourages a disconnect between the public and the best people we have to do the job.

It also potentially puts society on a path to courtroom mayhem when the voice of reason on the bench might not be heard - literally.

View statement (pdf) from the Chief Judge of the County Court in response to an 'Opinion' piece by Alan Howe published in the Herald Sun on Monday 7th February, 2011.

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Steven Wharton
I strongly commend the Law Institute and our President for the eloquent defense of judicial discretion from the ill-informed, knee-jerk and vengeful ructions of the gutter press that is The Herald-Sun.
11/02/2011 1:27:14 PM

Anna Bolger
Please see response from the County Court of Victoria to article written by Alan Howe, published in the Herald Sun on Monday 7th February, 2011.
10/02/2011 5:27:10 PM

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