Legislative Assembly for the ACT: Week 5 Hansard (13 May) . . Page.. 1862..
Another interesting report which came out prompted me to make one slight amendment, which I have referred to, to burglary. Neither the Canberra Times report of 28 September last year nor the Institute of Criminology report, Crime Victims and the Prevention of Residential Burglary, particularly surprised me. It seemed to surprise the Chief Minister but I am not really surprised about that. A not dissimilar Canberra Times poll last year on burglaries gave an interesting example of sentencing options. I think it is worthwhile homing in on this because it is important for this particular matter. Victims are asked:
People have different ideas about the sentences which should be given to offenders. Take, for instance, the case of a man who is 21 years old and is found guilty of house breaking and burglary for the second time. This time he has taken a colour TV. Which of the following sentences do you consider the most appropriate in such a case?
The result was that 37 per cent favoured community service, 31 per cent favoured prison, four per cent wanted a fine, 11 per cent wanted a suspended sentence and about 10 per cent said that they simply did not know. The most popular recommended sentence for that particular matter would have been community service or imprisonment. They broke up how long a person like that should be imprisoned. The most common area there was that some 27 per cent felt that around six to 12 months would be appropriate. That is completely consistent with what has been said by the people I have spoken to. However, in the court system-I can certainly vouch for this from years of practice there-with multiple burglaries you are rarely dealing with a situation of a 21-year-old who has had one burglary conviction and then has another a little while later for stealing a TV set. Most burglars take a hell of a lot more than a TV set. Most burglars who are caught invariably have a lot more burglaries to their credit-or perhaps one should say to their detriment-than just a single burglary. It is pretty rare to find someone with just one conviction for burglary and then, in a few years time, with another.
I wonder what the answer might have been if somebody gave a more likely scenario: the person is in the same age group but the first time round they were convicted of, say, five or six burglaries and, the second time round, of three or four. I would imagine that most people would probably want them to be sentenced to a time of imprisonment.
Taking all that into consideration, I think a logical suggested non-parole period would be 12 months rather than the two years I had stated earlier. I do point out to members-no doubt when this is finally debated the Chief Minister will probably make a lot of this-that the scenario given was a particularly unrealistic one. Were I to be prosecuting that particular case, I would be surprised if the police informant would particularly want that person to go to jail unless something else warranted it. If asked by the bench, I would not necessarily be recommending that a custodial sentence would be warranted. If it were, I think six to 12 months would be quite logical, as indeed would community service, on the basis of that rather strange and rather abnormal type of example. I make the point that it certainly is not common from my experience in the courts and from what I am continually told by current practitioners on both sides of the fence.
As I said, there are two important additions to this particular bill. I am pleased to say that, after discussions with the Chief Magistrate, I was happy to bring the first one forward-that is, increasing the jurisdiction of the Magistrates Court in criminal matters. It is certainly something that the Chief Magistrate thought was quite reasonable and