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LIV calls for re-think on proposed mandatory sentences

LIV calls for re-think on proposed mandatory sentences

By LIV Media

Criminal Procedure Sentencing 


The LIV has written to the Attorney-General Martin Pakula reaffirming its strong opposition to the state government’s proposed mandatory sentences for offenders convicted of assaulting emergency and health workers.

The LIV believes the proposal to upgrade the offence of assaulting emergency and health workers to a category one offence – the highest order of offending – is disproportionate and unjustified.

“Under the proposed legislation, an assault that would ordinarily be considered a low-level offence and tried summarily will be elevated to the same category as rape and murder,” the LIV said in the letter.

The LIV argues that the Justice Legislation Miscellaneous Amendment Bill is likely to contravene the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities because it disproportionately affects vulnerable members of the community, including those suffering mental health issues, young people who have suffered abuse, trauma, neglect and deprivation, and who have been involved in the child protection system.

“This disproportionate 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.”

The criminal justice system should differentiate offenders based on categories of offending.

“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.

“These are important factors in determining how a defendant should be treated within the criminal justice system to ensure that both the defendant and the community are protected,” the LIV said.

The proposed legislation refers to ”reckless injury” which could be interpreted as scratching, bruising or just physical contact between two parties, police and the community member, and needs to be better defined.

Mandatory sentencing removes the discretion of courts to decide a penalty which fits the individual circumstances of the crime and the offender, the LIV points out.

This included the option to consider alternatives to custodial sentences, such as restorative justice measures, that have been shown to prevent reoffending and better protect the community.

Mandatory sentencing has been shown to be an ineffective deterrent to crime, and prison sentences are associated with the diminishing of employment prospects, positive social links and other protective factors that help prevent recidivism.

The LIV strongly condemns any assault on Victoria’s emergency workers, prison officers and health workers and agrees that they need protection. The LIV believes magistrates and judges are best placed to hand down appropriate sentences in these circumstances.

“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.”

Read the LIV's letter to the Attorney-General here. 

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