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Populist ‘tough on crime’ approach won’t ensure community safety

Populist ‘tough on crime’ approach won’t ensure community safety

By LIV Media

Criminal Procedure Legislation Sentencing 

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The LIV acknowledges the very real anxiety caused by the increase in serious crimes by a group of young offenders over the past year, and emphasises that its members are as concerned about protecting the safety of the community as are police and the government,  LIV president Steven Sapountsis said.

However, the response to this must be a rational evidence-based approach rather than a knee jerk reaction that is likely to be counterproductive to community safety in the longer term, he said.

“A populist ‘tough on crime’ approach that does not also address the causes of the offending comes at a high cost to the community and the state – in dollar terms, rates of recidivism and other social disruptions,” Mr Sapountsis said, responding to an article published in The Australian on October 20 that criticised the LIV’s concerns about recent changes to the law to combat crime.

There was strong evidence to demonstrate that a multi-faceted, treatment-based approach to offenders is far more effective in reducing recidivism than simplistic punitive sentencing practices, Mr Sapountsis said. “It was this multi-faceted approach that was agreed upon at the recent Victoria Police Chief Commissioner’s youth summit, where it was acknowledged that it was not possible to simply ‘incarcerate our way out of this problem’.”

The LIV does not disagree with the Andrews government in all its measures to combat serious crime. It has not advocated the use of community correction orders for perpetrators of serious crimes. “In effect CCOs are already not available for serious offences – and that’s how it should be,” Mr Sapountsis said. “The state government merely formalised an approach that was already in place – and we supported that clarification.”

The LIV’s concern was with other parts of the amendment bill that will restrict the availability of CCOs for those who would benefit from the supervision and rehabilitation opportunities provided by this form of sentencing. “Imprisonment that is not accompanied by some sort of supervisory and rehabilitation component invariably leads to a cycle of reoffending,” Mr Sapountsis said.

Mr Sapountsis also reiterated the LIV’s concerns regarding the government’s proposed new laws for aggravated carjacking and aggravated home invasion. “These types of offences are already covered by existing penalties and the new laws are a form of mandatory sentencing. Mandatory penalties have been found to neither deter nor reduce crime rates. They also limit the discretion judges need to exercise in sentencing.”

The submissions and responses the LIV makes regarding sentencing and criminal justice issues are based on rational guidelines, informed by experience, data and research, and always accepting of the discretion that must  be vested in the judiciary to impose the appropriate sentence, Mr Sapountsis said.

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