Legislative Assembly for the ACT: Week 5 Hansard (13 May) . . Page.. 1861..
Sentencing Reform Amendment Bill 2004
Mr Stefaniak , pursuant to notice, presented the bill and its explanatory statement.
Title read by Clerk.
MR STEFANIAK (8.14): I move:
That this bill be agreed to in principle.
At the outset, I refer members to Hansard of 2 April 2003, starting at page 1,200. Fundamentally, the Sentencing Reform Amendment Bill 2004 is a regurgitation of the Sentencing Reform Amendment Bill 2003. That bill was dismissed, I think. It did not get up in November, the last calendar year. In the next calendar year it is being brought back. This bill does, however, have a number of additions.
I will very briefly recap the four fundamental points of the bill. Firstly, the bill increases, in a significant number of offences under the Crimes Act, the maximum penalty available to a court to bring these offences into line with New South Wales. In some instances our offences are very similar to or exactly the same as those of New South Wales. In other instances, New South Wales may have four or five different offences where we have one, so an extrapolation has been done. I referred to that last year when I introduced the bill on 2 April 2003. Secondly, the bill introduces sentencing guidelines. Thirdly, the bill also introduces the New South Wales concept, which has been in now for a little while, of suggested non-parole periods for very serious offences. There is one difference from the bill I brought in last year-that is, the suggested non-parole period for repeat offenders in relation to burglary offences has dropped from two years to 12 months. I will say something about that shortly. Finally, the bill removes a number of impediments to proper sentencing. There is a four-pronged approach.
I have made a couple of fairly important additions. This bill has been changed from last year's bill simply because we have a criminal code which has affected a number of offences. So the language has been changed and necessary amendments have been made by the drafters to keep it in line with where we are up to in the criminal code.
Sentencing is always a vexed problem. I have said quite a bit about this in the past-members can read what I said on 2 April-which I will not regurgitate. It is interesting that since then we have had a number of opinions expressed in the community. The bill had its genesis as a result of a lot of community consultation. I made reference to a very hardworking group last year.
On 28 September last year, the Canberra Times published an interesting poll which indicated that 83 per cent of Canberrans thought our courts were too lenient when it came to serious violent offences such as armed robbery, particularly nasty assaults and murders, 12 per cent thought that they probably were too lenient and only five per cent thought they were doing it correctly. I think it is important that we reflect the views of the community in this legislature and that the courts do what the community expects of them. It is a hard job. There are experienced men and women on the bench who are paid well to do the job and we expect them to do it.