Page 2769 - Week 07 - Wednesday, 29 June 2011

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In 2005 the Canberra Liberals introduced the Sentencing and Corrections Reform Amendment Bill 2005. In his presentation speech, my predecessor Mr Stefaniak said that the bill would largely bring us into line with our interstate neighbour New South Wales and most other states in the Commonwealth of Australia. That bill was designed to impose a rigor and an accountability on the way courts would have to approach a most important topic, that of sentencing.

In the end, the Labor government voted down the bill in a cognate debate that covered that bill along with two other government bills. I suspect that the logic and sense of the Canberra Liberal’s bill clashed too much with the government’s own agenda. In the environment of a majority government, logic and sense loses out to numbers. Sadly, the government missed the opportunity to create a level of comparability in offence penalties between the ACT and other jurisdictions.

The Canberra Liberals made a second attempt at sentencing law reform with a similar bill presented to the Assembly in November 2007. It is worth noting, Mr Speaker, that both of the Liberals’ previous bills sought to increase the penalties to a similar extent to those that I propose in this bill today. Since 2005 the ACT has been wallowing in a sea of neglect perpetrated by this ACT Labor government. Canberrans have paid the price for Labor’s lack of direction.

Mr Speaker, we need to look at a bit of the recent history. In August 2009 the Standing Committee on Justice and Community Safety brought down its report into the Crimes (Murder) Amendment Bill which, amongst other things, unanimously recommended an increase in the penalty for manslaughter and a general review of sentencing in the ACT. The ACT government dawdled for almost two years before it responded in May this year. In sum, the government declined to do anything about reviewing of sentencing. It said:

The government considers a general review of sentencing laws in the current term of government would be premature and unnecessary given that a full sentencing review was conducted in 2002-04.

That was the government’s view on 3 May this year. Roll forward just one week and the Attorney-General and I both received advice from the ACT Director of Public Prosecutions. The advice was that we have a problem. I will take the liberty of reading at some length from the letter that I received from the DPP in which he says at the conclusion that he had written in similar terms to the Attorney-General.

He starts by saying why he is writing to me, because we had exchanged correspondence in late 2010 in relation to the matter of Creighton. It was a case of culpable driving causing death and grievous bodily harm where there was quite apparently a fairly light sentence. The DPP, in response, launched an appeal against the sentence imposed on Mr Creighton. Picking up there, the DPP said to me on 11 May:

Late last week the Court of Appeal dismissed my appeal. Although reasons are still to come—

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