The Northern Territory Government’s proposal to radically expand mandatory sentencing is unfair, unprincipled, unworkable, unnecessary and unaffordable, writes Russell Goldflam, president of the Criminal Lawyers Association of the Northern Territory.
Trish van Dijk (pictured) has confirmed that her question to Adam Giles was about "mandatory sentencing per se". It was not about the old regime that existed under the CLP when it was last in government, as suggested by Simon Walker in his comment below. She told the Alice Springs News Online this morning: "I just asked a simple question: Are you going to pursue mandatory sentencing? And the answer was 'no'."
Now you see it, now you don't. The Country Liberals' policy is to introduce minimum sentences for certain categories of assault. That's mandatory sentencing, but according to candidates Adam Giles and Matt Conlan at yesterday's Meet the Candidates forum in Alice Springs, mandatory sentencing is "not happening".
"We won't be pursuing mandatory sentencing", said Mr Giles to a question from Trish van Dijk at the forum. Mr Conlan joined in: "It's not happening," he said.
Today Mr Giles 'clarified' his understanding of the policy for the Alice Springs News Online: "Mandatory sentencing is a catch-all for everyone on all things. We're talking about minimum sentencing for assault on front-line service staff."
Yet clearly, if parliament passes legislation requiring minimum sentences for certain crimes, then that is mandatory sentencing. KIERAN FINNANE reports.
Photo: Adam Giles makes an impassioned point. To his right are fellow Country Liberals Robyn Lambley and Matt Conlan. Nearest to the camera are (from right) the Greens' Barbara Shaw and Evelyne Roullet. The moderator, the ABC's Rowan Barwick, is at far left.
It's about heavier not fairer punishments and it does not deter offenders, they say.
Mandatory sentencing is strongly associated with the dying phase of the last Country Liberal Government. In many ways Terry Mills leads a different CLP into this election campaign, but it seems the leopard can't lose this particular spot – a 'lock 'em up reflex.
Earlier this month, responding to concern over attacks on taxi drivers Mr Mills announced what looks to be a one strike mandatory sentencing policy for assaults on anyone serving the public, not only taxi drivers but including "bus drivers, public servants, bank tellers, retail and hospitality workers".
An assault on this broad category of victim – including, for example, bouncers at night clubs – will be defined as "aggravated" and attract a minimum sentence of three months. This beefs up the party's existing two strike policy statement (see their website) for assault: as a second offence, any assault will attract a minimum of one month; an aggravated assault, a minimum of three months; and causing serious harm, a minimum of one year.
The core problem with this approach – whether to property crime as in the old CLP regime or violent offending – lies with its failure to take account of an almost infinite variety of circumstances and human responses to them.
KIERAN FINNANE discusses the issues with Russell Goldflam, President of the Criminal Lawyers Association of the NT .