Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 14 Hansard (Tuesday, 22 November 2005) . . Page.. 4391 ..
because it is too low in the circumstances, or mitigating circumstances which the court can have regard to if they feel the standard non-parole period is too high.
This is based very much on what New South Wales has in relation to its standard non-parole periods, which came into effect back in 2002, with some extrapolation in relation to our particular offences. Offences 11, 12 and 13 in the table in proposed new clause 66A relate to quantities of serious drugs, their sale or supply and the volume that the person has for supply. An exponential increase in the recommended penalty of a non-parole period is dependent upon that particular quantity. The New South Wales provision is very similar to that.
The only other difference is in relation to burglary and is for repeat offenders rather than for somebody who might be making their first appearance. The rest deal with particularly nasty crimes. I suppose a good way to highlight it is murder. Over many years in Australia, there has been concern expressed that the standard period for murder seemed to be about 12 or so years non-parole. That is a deliberate act that takes another person’s life and is probably the nastiest crime there is. For the particularly nasty murders, the penalties were somewhat greater. In another debate we talked about papers sometimes being marked “never to be released”. However, for a more basic murder, where there is a deliberate act to take someone’s life, there was a lot of concern shown that 12 years was too low.
New South Wales has—and I might have indicated this in my opening speech—quite effectively used this in recent times. If you read the Sydney papers and look at reports on the crime of murder, you will quite often see courts imposing a standard non-parole period of 20 years for murder. Sometimes it is far greater; other times it is far less because of mitigating circumstances.
I have seen cases in New South Wales where people that have been convicted of murder have not even had a custodial sentence imposed on them. I have made mention in the past of the battered wife syndrome, where the circumstances are so mitigating, and the behaviour of the victim so extreme, that the court has decided to impose no penalty. You have, at the other end of the scale, horrific murders such as the Anita Cobby murder where papers will be marked “never to be released.”
There is a lot of angst in our community in relation to courts being too lenient when it comes to serious crimes. Most people probably do not have that strong an attitude towards property crime. Whilst Dr Foskey might not particularly like the Canberra Times survey I referred to, it was a very accurate indication of people’s views. People would not necessarily see the need for custodial penalties in relation to property offences. But for violent offences, there is a real concern that our courts are indeed too lenient and that something needs to be done.
New South Wales has come up with a very good way of doing that. For these very serious crimes, they have recommended standard non-parole periods—periods that the court can deviate from. Basically a court has to show some good reason to do so. It is not mandatory sentencing. Those opposite in the past have said, “That is just mandatory sentencing.” That is nonsense; it is not. Quite clearly, anyone reading this can see that. It has these guidelines. It imposes recommended non-parole periods which can be deviated