Page 4103 - Week 13 - Tuesday, 15 November 2005

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superior courts have authority to sentence particular offenders before the court and make judicial statements, but no authority to publish a table of future punishments over other offenders not before the court.

Rather than assisting in coherence between superior and inferior courts, I fear that Mr Stefaniak’s proposal would have the effect of shifting the Assembly’s responsibility for setting penalties to the courts. If Mr Stefaniak had his way, criminal justice would be upside down: the Assembly would be sentencing offenders, while the court would be setting penalties.

Mr Stefaniak’s proposal to introduce standard non-parole periods contradicts the Liberal Party’s 2003 submission to the government’s sentencing review. That submission advocated rehabilitation as the key element of sentencing policy. Given that the rationale for parole is rehabilitation, Mr Stefaniak’s proposal elevates jail time above the goal of rehabilitation advocated by the ACT Liberal Party in their submission to the sentencing review.

Mr Stefaniak’s proposal for standard non-parole periods does not acknowledge that the treatment of parole periods in New South Wales and the ACT is fundamentally different. In New South Wales, the time an offender spends on parole is counted towards completing the whole sentence. In the ACT, an offender’s parole time is not counted towards completing the sentence until the whole sentence is finished. If an ACT offender breaches parole, the offender must serve the whole parole period in prison unless parole is again granted. A New South Wales offender who breaches parole is only obliged to serve the remaining time of their sentence. Given the experience of non-parole periods in New South Wales, I think that having standard non-parole periods would only create more complexity and technical grounds for appeal.

I would like now to sum up the in-principle debate on the government’s Crimes (Sentence Administration) Bill 2005 and foreshadow government amendments for the detail stage of the debate. Democracy is built upon the consistent and equal application of the rule of law. The government’s sentence administration bill contributes to the rule of law by ensuring that there are clear obligations upon everyone who must serve a sentence and that these obligations will be enforced. Conversely, the bill also articulates the law that must apply to any agency managing sentences. The government and its departments are obliged to ensure that people found guilty of breaking the law are themselves treated lawfully.

This is human rights in practice. The bill will protect offenders against arbitrary acts because it openly expresses the law that would apply to those serving sentences. The bill upholds the authority of corrections officers to manage and enforce sentences by clearly expressing their powers and responsibilities. The rights of offenders and the powers of public authorities are best protected if these rights and powers are laid down in law that is publicly known, equally applied and effectively enforced.

To this end, the government’s bill creates a standard model for administering and enforcing each sentencing option. The bill sets out the obligations upon offenders for each type of sentence: full-time detention; periodic detention; and good behaviour orders. The bill openly sets out the consequences for any offender failing to meet their obligations. Breach proceedings have been strengthened and streamlined to ensure

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