Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . . Video

Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 04 Hansard (Tuesday, 24 March 2015) . . Page.. 994 ..

The committee looked into matters right across sentencing in the ACT, from the courts to the Alexander Maconochie Centre, before and after sentencing, and before and after sentences are served. The ACT has had fairly modest rates of offending and a low number of prisoners in custody. However, within that cohort recidivism rates are high and compare poorly with other jurisdictions in Australia. This calls out for a concerted effort by government to reduce recidivism in the ACT.

Two broad areas attracted the committee’s attention. The first concerns the establishment of a sentencing council. This responds to what the committee found to be an underdeveloped state of knowledge on sentencing in the ACT and the limited availability of reliable information, including information available to the public. The need for such a body was highlighted in the course of the inquiry by conflicting claims made to the committee on sentencing data and the trends in the ACT.

Challenges in establishing a better state of information on sentencing in the ACT are, in the committee’s view, increased by the small size of the jurisdiction, requiring specialist techniques to discover trends and indices in small sample sizes. Such a council would also respond to the gap between the practice of sentencing by the judiciary and the public perceptions of sentencing noted in many jurisdictions in Australia.

The second broad focus of the report’s recommendations has been the establishment of an intensive corrections orders regime in the ACT. In the committee’s view, the more comprehensive, flexible suite of sentencing options, monitoring and rehabilitation that would be provided under such a scheme would help in a number of areas currently needing attention. This is especially the case in view of the high prevalence of drug and alcohol use amongst offenders in all jurisdictions.

Intensive corrections orders would provide a more appropriate set of options under which offenders in the ACT could be ordered to attend drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs and for this to be monitored and supervised under the auspices of the criminal justice system. Given the strong correlation between substance abuse and offending, the committee believes this is an important direction for criminal justice in the ACT.

In addition to these broad proposals, the committee found there were a number of specific areas in which present arrangements could be improved upon. I will briefly summarise the committee’s recommendations in these areas. In relation to court processes, the committee recommended that the government introduce de novo appeals, set realistic time lines for lodging appeals after sentence is handed down, allow judicial officers to take account of forfeiture of property when determining sentence, reform listing practices in the Magistrates Court, create alternatives to remand, provide a remedy where costs accrue through no fault of the accused, and expand the scope and operation of the ACT’s restorative justice scheme for both youth and adult offenders.

In relation to domestic violence and victims of crime, the committee recommended that the government continue current legislative and other support for the ACT family violence intervention program and empower courts to adjourn sentencing proceedings to allow time for victim impact statements to be provided.

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . . Video