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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 04 Hansard (Wednesday, 16 March 2005 2005) . . Page.. 1113 ..

reviewed in two stages over the next three years, with a report being provided to the Assembly at each stage.

Members may recall that in my inaugural speech, and on a number of occasions since in this place, I spoke about my long-held interest and involvement in the restorative justice process. As I have previously said, in 2001 I was fortunate to travel to the UK as part of my commitments as CEO of Volunteering ACT. Whilst there I was invited by Sir Charles Pollard, then Chief Constable of the Thames Valley Police Service, to meet him and other senior officers in order that I could develop a better understanding of the RJ process and the benefits it had brought to their community.

During my visit I had an opportunity to meet with the Restorative Justice Unit and speak with the officers who headed up each part of that unit. The unit has five team leaders and covers areas such as crime, schools, neighbourhood and community disputes and police complaints. At the time of my visit, the Thames Valley had the lowest per capita number of police to population in the UK whilst at the same time having the second lowest crime figures. This obviously casts significant doubt on there being a correlation between the number of police and the resultant crime rate.

The officer in charge of the RJ unit was a former advocate of the “just lock ’em up and throw away the key” school of policing, as indeed were the other officers in the unit. However, in my conversations with him and his colleagues, they told me of their total commitment to the RJ process as they had seen for themselves the positive benefits that RJ had had on the community in which they serve. In conversations with Mr Steve Love, a then Deputy Chief Constable of Thames Valley, I asked whether he believed prisons were effective. To my surprise he answered; “Absolutely; prisons work every time.” Observing my astonished look he quickly added; “For as long as the person is locked up.”

Mr Love claimed that the only useful purpose jail served was to remove an offender from society; as soon as the person was released, it ceased to serve it purpose. Mr Love went on to say that a prison was also a “finishing school for criminals”. He was particularly concerned that young people, predominantly males, who were given custodial sentences usually left prison far more hardened and experienced criminals than when they had entered and were, in his opinion, inevitably destined to commit further crimes leading to longer and longer prison sentences.

As members are also aware, the Stanhope government is to construct a correction facility to house ACT prisoners rather than warehouse them in the outdated New South Wales system. John Paget, the director of the prison project, has said that the ACT prison will be unique because it will be the first built in Australia to conform to a human rights act. In yesterday’s Canberra Times Mr Paget was quoted as saying, “From the ground up, this prison will be built through the prism of the Human Rights Act and all the considerations that go with it.”

I would like to convey to the Assembly a story told to me by Sir Charles Pollard about how the then British Home Secretary, Jack Straw, became a convert to and supporter of the restorative justice process. Sir Charles had invited Mr Straw to Oxford, the centre of the Thames Valley Police Service, to observe for himself a restorative justice conference. Prior to attending this conference, Mr Straw decided to attend a juvenile court to observe

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