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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 14 Hansard (Tuesday, 22 November 2005) . . Page.. 4392 ..


from but which are a very strong indication to a court that reflects the community’s concern about particularly nasty crimes.

It is probably high time that this Assembly took note of the views of the community and the community expectations in terms of what they expect from a justice system. The community are not fools. The ACT community can differentiate between property crime and violent crime. They can see reasons why it would be unreasonable to have a provision that might jail someone who commits a property crime for the first time. The majority of that survey indicated they do not necessarily see jail as appropriate for someone who has committed a serious property crime and is before the court for the first time.

They have a very different view of violent crime. When 83 per cent think our courts are far too weak when it comes to sentencing violent offenders, when 12 per cent think they are probably too weak and only 5 per cent think they are getting it about right, that is something we need to take into account.

I was at a Neighbourhood Watch meeting in Florey last week. There has been a spate of offences there. Most of them, luckily enough, are not terribly serious. But a real concern amongst those present was that, even if the offenders were caught, nothing would happen when they got to court. These people were not mad rednecks or anything; they were just community people in a suburb who had concern. There has been concern—and it is regularly expressed by victims—that our courts do not take a serious enough view when it comes to dealing with serious offences. Sometimes they take the view that the courts are not tough enough on more minor offences. But I am not dealing with that here; I am dealing with very serious offences.

This is something that a Labor state, a state that surrounds the ACT—refer to New South Wales—has brought in. It appears to be working quite satisfactorily there. There is a real problem. I would like to see consistent sentencing right across Australia. That is something we might achieve at some date. It is taking us forever to get a national criminal code going. That is something we might see at some stage. But I would certainly like to see that across Australia. In the meantime, I do not think it is right that someone who commits an armed robbery in Queanbeyan could expect to get a certain number of years imprisonment for that armed robbery and, if they committed the same offence in the ACT, could get a lesser sentence and might even walk free without a custodial sentence.

These are guidelines. Yes, these are strong guidelines for a court. But they were certainly recommended to me by victims and certainly were something that the AFP was keen to see. Indeed, some lawyers who have been involved in criminal law for a number of years were quite comfortable with them. Obviously, a number of others would not be. I reiterate: they would bring us into line with New South Wales. They were brought in in New South Wales, a Labor state. Obviously, the Greens and the ALP are going to vote against them. But you should have due regard to proper community expectations.

Sentencing is more than just rehashing a series of acts and putting them into two; it is about taking the opportunity to look at what needs to be done here and now, especially what needs to be done to toughen up areas where there have been some glaring weaknesses in the past; and put down proper guidelines that will ensure that, for these


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