Page 4683 - Week 11 - Wednesday, 19 October 2011

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As I have said, the heart of what this bill proposes is to set up an evidence-based way to assess the need for sentencing reform as opposed to simply deciding that there are a couple of offences that need to be addressed based on particular incidents. As it stands at the moment, there are three bills from the government and the Canberra Liberals proposing to increase sentences across four crime categories and more than 20 individual crimes. The Canberra Liberals have also foreshadowed that they have another bill that is close to finalisation. Mrs Dunne in her recent interjection suggested: “We’ve done the work. The government hasn’t.”

It would be interesting to see what the basis of those ideas are. Is it going to be based on what is actually happening in the ACT? Have they done an analysis of how effective the current sentencing regime is? Are we meeting the objectives of the sentencing act? Or is it something else where we have just sat down and produced a spreadsheet of what the other states do? Is that what it has come to? We are now going to make sentencing law in the ACT based on: “All the other states do this. Some other state does it this way. They did that in the middle of a law and order bidding war in an election campaign, but that is a sound basis to make ACT sentencing approaches.” Personally, I do not think that is a good enough standard. I want to see us actually working out what is working in the ACT, what is not working in the ACT and then make our decisions from there.

This brings me to why an evidence-based approach is important. Taking that sort of approach allows adoption of a smart-on-crime approach rather than falling into the old trap of simply wanting to appear to be tough on crime. Evidence allows us to really tackle the problem of crime in a preventative way that works, not in a way that makes a great headline.

I think this is recognised in the ACT government’s own guide to framing offences issued by the Justice and Community Safety Directorate. Here is what they have to say on this issue:

Despite popular perception, research suggests that increasing penalties does not act as a significant deterrent or prevent crime. Strategies that look at reducing the incidence of crime (such as targeted education and awareness raising) and improving detection, arrest and prosecution of offenders are generally more effective.

This is from the government’s own guide to framing offences. I would be interested for the attorney, perhaps when we come to some of the increased penalties that he is proposing in the next couple of weeks, to reflect on that point, the advice from his own department and how that sits with the bill that he has sought to bring forward.

As I say, the Greens acknowledge that there may well be penalties in our laws that are inadequate. There may be areas in which we need to look at alternative approaches. Certainly, recent media reports have shown that 30 per cent of drink drivers caught are repeat offenders. That suggests that we do have a problem in this area. What the review would look at is that data and compare it with other offence categories. If the review shows that the statistics are out of proportion or it identifies a significant flaw in the sentencing regime then the Assembly would be on notice that something is not

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