Page 1120 - Week 04 - Wednesday, 16 March 2005

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That is why, too, we have, even in recent times, a number of magistrates—the most recent being Magistrate Madden last year—saying, “Because of a provision in the Crimes Act in relation to jail as a last resort, I cannot sentence this person to jail. I would have given him 16 months. Therefore, I have to let him back out into the community.” I think it was a particularly nasty stalking case. The magistrate obviously felt there that the best option for him and the community and probably even the defendant’s own ultimate benefit would be a term of imprisonment, but he was restricted because of section 242 of the Crimes Act which says that you do jail as a last resort.

There are cases where a person has to be imprisoned. There are a number of cases where, obviously, you will not see a particular person again. There are cases, quite clearly, where restorative justice does not work. It is interesting. We need to see how it goes. It has just started. I do not know if it is going to happen in five to 10 per cent of all criminal cases. I do not know exactly how it is going to pan out in the ACT. But it has been done elsewhere. There are some interesting stats, and I will just mention a couple of them.

In juvenile property crime, under RJ, there are 59.1 more arrests per year per 100 offenders; under conventional justice, 18.9 fewer arrests. Quite clearly, in terms of juvenile property crime, the more conventional options are the ones that seem to cause less recidivism than restorative justice. Similarly, in juvenile violence crime, under conventional justice, there are 3.4 more arrests; and 40.3 fewer arrests under restorative justice. In that instance of violent crime, restorative justice would seem to work with juveniles and is a better option than conventional justice.

That figure is very similar to one on diversionary conferencing. I have seen figures in terms of diversionary conferencing which show that, with a young offender—and Zed has pointed out some figures for older offenders, which I will not repeat and which are probably the opposite—if you get them early, confront them with a victim, they might realise, “Oh, dear, what a dreadful thing I have done.” So you have less recidivism. But it is the other way in terms of property crime. I think that is fairly similar, too, to what happened in terms of diversionary conferencing.

It is early days, but quite clearly it is something that is worth trying. On the figures that we actually have, it is not a panacea; it is not going to work in all instances. We will see, I would image, in some crimes it actually is going to be less effective than more conventional measures. I do not think others should see them as a panacea and one more excuse perhaps for not putting in jail people who should be in jail, whom the community and the victims expect to be in jail for committing very serious offences.

We do need a suite of options, and this is one of them. This is something that, obviously, in some instances will work. But we do need to be cautious; we do need to be rigorous in terms of assessing how effective it is. We do also, I think, need to keep tabs on what is happening in other jurisdictions. In New Zealand, in some instances, they have had a fair amount of experience in terms of restorative justice.

Mr Hargreaves: And Canada.

MR STEFANIAK: And Canada. I make those points in this debate and again impress on Mr Hargreaves that broad, sweeping, generalised statements are really not appropriate

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