Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 07 Hansard (Wednesday, 22 June 2005 2005) . . Page.. 2122 ..
persons for serious acts of violence. Twelve per cent thought they were probably too lenient and 5 per cent thought they were right. That is pretty indicting. That is 95 per cent of the community. I think it is important that our courts reflect proper community values and it is important that we, as legislators, give them the tools, too, and the guidelines, if need be, to do that job.
This bill and these amendments are hardly about mandatory sentencing. There is always going to be the odd crime that causes problems for that particular approach. Courts need discretions, but they need guidelines. This bill and these amendments provide just that. They are based on recent innovations the Carr Labor government have introduced, and introduced quite successfully, in New South Wales. Everyone should have the amendments now.
Basically the bill and the amendments fall into a number of parts. Before I go to the actual bill and the amendments, I note that this will be another sentencing bill before the Assembly. The amendments relate to the government’s Crime Sentencing Bill 2005. So we have three documents here that relate pretty much to same thing. My committee, the legal affairs committee, is actually looking at the question of sentencing in the ACT and I would be very happy if my bill, the amendments I have tabled to the government’s Crime Sentencing Bill and the Crime Sentencing Bill currently before the Assembly go to the committee. I think that would be a very positive step. I am sure we could look at it in a reasonably short period of time.
The problem with the government’s sentencing bill is that it consolidates about 12 different acts into one. It does not really advance the issues in terms of community expectations. It picks up problems in the way courts sentence for serious offences. It adds only a couple of new sections in relation to corrections. It misses out on a couple of things there, too, which are covered by my bill and my amendments as well in relation to areas the government has not addressed.
Fundamentally, my bill and the amendments are divided into four specific areas. The first is maximum penalties. These are hardly the be-all or end-all, but it is important to be consistent. I think people are much more concerned about how long a criminal who commits a serious offence actually spends in jail than what they get on top as a maximum. But it is important, I think, to have a wide range of penalties available for serious offences, and it is certainly important to bring us into line with New South Wales.
For the offence of pack rape, that is, rape in the first degree in company causing physical harm to a victim, at present in the ACT the maximum available to the court is only 20 years. That would rise to life to bring us into line with New South Wales. The significant penalties handed down in recent times in New South Wales have had a significant effect on that crime. According to police in New South Wales, after Justice Finnane’s landmark sentences, the incidence of rape in Sydney dropped by some 75 per cent in the following 12 months.
Manslaughter would increase to 25 years, and I think even the government concedes that that is something it wants to do. It did that initially with its industrial relations legislation and we actually dropped the penalty back to be consistent with the Crimes Act. So I would imagine even the government should not have a problem with that. Wounding,