Page 2121 - Week 07 - Wednesday, 22 June 2005

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Wednesday, 22 June 2005

MR SPEAKER (Mr Berry) took the chair at 10.30 am and asked members to stand in silence and pray or reflect on their responsibilities to the people of the Australian Capital Territory.

Sentencing and Corrections Reform Amendment Bill 2005

Mr Stefaniak, pursuant to notice, presented the bill and its explanatory statement.

Title read by Clerk.

MR STEFANIAK (Ginninderra) (10.31): Mr Speaker, I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

This bill, together with amendments which are being handed out now to the government’s Crime Sentencing Bill 2005, form a package which, if this Assembly adopted it, would largely bring us into line with our interstate neighbour New South Wales and, I would suggest, most other states in the Commonwealth of Australia. It is specifically important, I think, that we are brought into line with New South Wales.

The community often bemoans incompatibilities between sentences, often within the same jurisdiction, and certainly between jurisdictions as well. Crime does not know any boundaries and it is ludicrous that a criminal convicted of robbery in Queanbeyan can expect to receive a higher sentence there than if they walked across the border and committed a robbery in Fyshwick. There is a real need for consistency, not only within the ACT, but also between the ACT and New South Wales and other jurisdictions. This bill will go a long way to ensuring that. It actually does a number of things but, as much as anything, it imposes a rigor and an accountability on the way courts would have to approach this most important topic.

There are two and half things I would say that concern the community when it comes to crime and criminal matters. Firstly, do the police have the numbers, the ability, to actually get there and do their job of apprehending criminals or, indeed, have that presence that is often essential in deterring crime? Sadly, in the ACT at present, we have very low police numbers and a government unable or unwilling to act to address that situation.

At the end of the day, even if you have a police force that is bursting at the seams with numbers, it is equally frustrating to the community if people who commit especially serious crimes either are let off on technicalities along the way, although that often seems to be less of a concern to the community, or walk free as a result of inadequate or too weak sentences. We have seen that all too often and it is something that certainly concerns the community.

The Canberra Times in September 2003 did an opinion poll in relation to persons’ attitudes towards sentencing for serious offences involving violence. It was interesting that 83 per cent thought our courts were far too lenient when it came to sentencing

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