News & Media
Subscribe to our e-news
If you would like to subscribe to receive our e-news bulletins click here.
For our latest e-news click here.
Media organisations seeking comment on Smart Justice issues should contact the following spokespeople:
Senior Policy Adviser
Federation of Community Legal Centres (Vic)
T 0488 778 099
Federation of Community Legal Centres (Vic)
T 0488 773 535
The views expressed in Smart Justice media releases and media comment do not necessarily reflect the views of the individual Smart Justice partner organisations.
Final abolition of suspended sentences in Victoria the wrong path to community safety, says Smart Justice
Monday 1 September 2014 - for immediate release. The abolition of suspended sentences in the Magistrates' Court from today will likely see an increase in fines and imprisonment for lower-level offending, worsening prison overcrowding and wasteful prison spending, and undermining community safety, according to the Smart Justice project.
Smart Justice, the Human Rights Law Centre and the Wheeler Centre are co-hosting a panel discussion on 'Tackling Crime the Smart Way'. The panel will be facilitated by Damien Carrick and includes Magistrate Pauline Spencer, Rob Hulls (Director of the Centre for Innovative Justice, RMIT) and the former head of Queensland Corrections, Marlene Morrison. Put Thursday 11th September at the Wheeler Centre, 6.15pm to 7.15pm in your diary. Tickets will go on sale on 1 September. Please don't contact the Wheeler Centre for tickets until then. Further details to follow.
State Government persists with damaging and wasteful non-solution as $450m+ goes on prisons in Vic State Budget
Tuesday 6 May 2014 - for immediate release. The Victorian Government's State Budget announcement of more than $450m ($454.3m) for nearly 900 new prison beds (871) and work towards a further 300 beds adds to previous record prison spending and is a damaging and wasteful non-solution that will not reduce crime or make the community safer, according to Smart Justice, a coalition of 29 organisations led by the Federation of Community Legal Centres.
Ombudsman scathing of increasing risk of death and self-harm in Victoria's overcrowded prisonsWednesday 26 March 2014 - for immediate release. Findings from the Victorian Ombudsman's investigation into deaths in custody tabled in Parliament today offer a scathing assessment and an urgent warning of the consequences of further unchecked prison overcrowding, according to Smart Justice, a coalition of 29 organisations led by the Federation of Community Legal Centres.-The Ombudsman has directly linked overcrowding in our prisons, lack of appropriate health services, and continuing high-prevalence of hanging points to an increasing risk of self-harm and death,- said Michelle McDonnell, Smart Justice spokesperson for the Federation, today. More >
Abolition of suspended sentences must be delayedTuesday 25 February 2014. Findings of a new report by the Sentencing Advisory Council have prompted Smart Justice to call on the Victorian Government to delay the abolition of suspended sentences in the Magistrates' Court scheduled to occur in September this year.The report, Community Corrections OrdersÂ–The First 18 Months, shows that, after an initial uptake, community corrections orders have declined, while fines and sentences of imprisonment have continued to rise in a system already experiencing chronic over-crowding. More >
Thursday 30 January 2014 The latest Productivity Commission Report on Government Services confirms that Victoria's massive prison invest-ment just doesn't add up, according to Smart Justice, a coalition of 29 organisations led by the Federation of Community Legal Centres (click headline for full story).
Thursday 12 December 2013 - for immediate releaseJustice advocacy groups Smart Justice and Smart Justice For Young People have welcomed a report by the Victorian Ombudsman calling for a halt to the transfer of children from the youth justice system to adult prison. The report was tabled in State Parliament today.(Click on headline for full story.)
Thursday 5 December 2013. A statement by Corrections Minister Edward O'Donohue suggesting that a campaign to solve the prison crisis and boost community safety is politically aligned and not based on facts has been rejected by Smart Justice, a broad-based coalition of 29 organisations led by the Federation of Community Legal Centres. (Click headline for full story).
Spike in Victorian prisoner numbers demands rethink of justice policy21 November. A spike in prisoner numbers in Victoria revealed by national prison statistics released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics today shows that an urgent rethink of government justice policy is needed, says Smart Justice, a coalition of 29 organisations led by the Federation of Community Legal Centres.Over the last decade, Victoria's prison population has grown by around 48 per cent. The latest figures show that Victoria has added 100 additional prisoners per month over the last four months. More >
Tuesday 17 September 2013. The Victorian Government's announcement of plans to double the capacity of the new Ravenhall prison to 1000 beds is planning for the wrong future and risks reducing community safety rather than improving it, according to Smart Justice, a coalition of community organisations led by the Federation of Community Legal Centres.
$10.7m for prison consultancies should have gone to tackling the causes of crime, says Smart JusticeMonday 2 September - for immediate releaseThe $10.7 million in consultancies reported to have been spent on developing the new 500-bed Ravenhall private prison would have been far better spent on tackling the causes of crime, according to Smart Justice, a coalition of 27 organisations led by the Federation of Community Legal Centres. -Every dollar spent on new prisons is a dollar we can't spend on preventing crime before it happens,- said Smart Justice spokesperson, Michelle McDonnell, today. More >
Smart Justice presents a unique training opportunity for Smart Justice supporters based on critical media analysis and narrative strategy to build a powerful smart justice story to guide us in our advocacy.
The continued growth in Victoria's imprisonment rate detailed in the latest report of the Sentencing Advisory Council will potentially worsen under law-and-order measures yet to come on stream, according to the Smart Justice project, a coalition of organisations led by the Federation of Community Legal Centres.
The 2013/14 Victorian State Budget has again focused on extending the prison system - an expensive approach to crime that will fail to boost community safety and will divert urgently needed funds from programs addressing the causes of crime,according to Smart Justice, a coalition of organisations led by the Federation of Community Legal Centres.
We're calling for ongoing investment in this review to learn more from family violence deaths to prevent future deaths and serious injury. See more on our fact sheet on preventing family violence on our website and consider joining us at the Red Rose Rally in Melbourne on 13 November. Details are on the link.
Stalled prison project cause to rethink flawed policyThe stalled Ararat prison expansion is cause to rethink the Victorian Government's flawed harsher sentencing policies which are accelerating the rapid, unsustainable growth in Victoria's prison population, according to Smart Justice, a coalition of 24 legal and community organisations led by the Federation of Community Legal Centres. More >
Campbell Newman's approach to his new mandatory parole laws is straightforward: ignore any advice that says it's stupid policy, and abolish organisations that stand in its way.
The World Today asks Professor Eileen Baldry, Hugh de Kretser from Smart Justice and former prisoner Robert Barco who's now a youth program coordinator if there's a disconnect between crime and punishment in Australia's states.
Victoria's number plates may proclaim it's 'on the move' but the prison spending blow-out in this month's state budget could mean it's no longer 'the place to be' in terms of smarter justice policies, says Michelle McDonnell from Smart Justice.
Smart Justice has welcomed a call by the Office of Police Integrity for more public debate on Victoria Police use of controversial stop and search powers first legislated in 2009. 'The OPI review tabled in parliament today has only fuelled growing doubt that police powers to stop and search people without a warrant or reasonable suspicion have gone too far,' said Smart Justice spokesperson Hugh de Kretser today. 'The review points to a failure to comply with legislative requirements for reporting the use of these powers, with the available data for armed robberies showing 'no discernible impact' on the use of knives- a key motivation for introducing these laws in the first place'.
Melton Council has questioned the state government budget that puts a new $500 million prison in the area ahead of much needed local transport and health projects.
The Justice Reinvestment for Aboriginal Young People campaign was launched today. The group is calling for funds to be diverted from prisons into prevention and treatment programs for young Aboriginal people to address issues such as poverty, homelessness and drug and alcohol use.
Amid a tight State Budget, Smart Justice says a $500 million commitment to a new prison continues a dangerous trend of ineffective and expensive prison expansion that will fail to prevent crime, tackle its causes, or rehabilitate prisoners so they are less likely to re-offend.
Ongoing concerns over crime statistics reporting by Victoria Police highlight the need for the Victorian Government to set up an independent crime stats agency in Victoria, says Smart Justice, a coalition of 22 leading legal and community agencies.
An interesting profile on former prosecutor and Liberal Party Right faction member, Greg Smith. Now the New South Wales Attorney-General, he is implementing policies that address the causes of crime rather than simply looking at bringing in harsher sentences.
The May state budget includes plans for a 500 bed medium security prison and funding for 395 more beds at existing jails. Smart Justice spokesperson Hugh de Kretser considered that jail expansion on this scale was a sign of failure in the fight against crime. Meanwhile the majority of Herald Sun readers responding to a poll don't believe the new prisons will deter people from committing crimes.
Today's announcement by the Victorian Government of plans to build a new 500 bed prison in Melbourne's West is further evidence that Victoria is getting it wrong on tackling crime according to Smart Justice, a coalition of legal and community groups. 'Jail expansion on this scale is a sign of failure in the fight against crime,' said Hugh de Kretser, Smart Justice spokesperson. 'The half a billion price tag for the extra jail beds is half a billion that will be diverted away from programs that are far cheaper and more effective in cutting crime.'
Discrimination on the ground that a person has a criminal record is widespread in Victoria where there is no spent conviction scheme, says James Farrell.
Even Alan Jones has changed his mind and now agrees with the findings of the prominent Australia 21 group that the war on drugs has failed and that it is time for a re-think.
Law and order politics under the previous Labor government has played a significant role in the current state of complex sentencing laws in New South Wales says Greg Smith. The net effect is more sentencing errors and appeals.
'The prohibition of illicit drugs is killing and criminalising our children and we are letting it happen'.
The flow on effect of government's law and order policies include a huge demand for legal services and delays in court proceedings.
A survey finds that there is strong public support for restorative justice measures such as Youth Justice Conferencing.
A Victorian study reveals that very few prison sentences are reduced on appeal.
Another report from the New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics.
The misuse of crime statistics impedes rational debate about law and order according to Don Weatherburn.
The Australian Institute of Criminology's latest release on crime statistics gets little publicity. An interesting analysis on why this is the case.
Federation of Community Legal Centres executive officer Hugh de Kretser says there is an urgent need to take action to end over-representation of indigenous Australians in the criminal justice system.
Peter Norden says forums such as Rights Now seem to represent potential leaders in our community who may well be prepared to champion changes to the criminal justice system in future years.
Victoria needs to reevaluate its spending priorities, particularly those that will further inflate the already spiraling costs of prisons, according to VCOSS.
Peter Norden comments on the recently released Productivity Commission report on Government Services 2012 which has a chapter on corrective services.
The Victorian Government's announcement of 1,500 jobs for prison expansion was today heavily criticised by the Smart Justice Coalition, a coalition of leading community and legal groups.
Greg Barnes says we should take media reports about the causes of last week's prisoner protests with a grain of salt.
Hugh de Kretser spokesperson for Smart Justice compares prison policies in New South Wales and Victoria. He says the Victorian policy shift looks likely to saddle the state with a prison legacy that will suck billions of much needed taxpayer funds into a populist policy sinkhole. NSW in contrast, is cutting its prison population, closing jails and investing in reoffending reduction programs.
Channel 9 news reports on the logistical issues with implementing the government's election promise to put armed Protective Sevices Officers on every train station in Melbourne.
This New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research report concludes that misuse of crime statistics by the media has impeded rational debate about law and order.
The Sentencing Advisory Council updates us on the changes to sentencing law in Victoria. The changes commence on 16 January.
The Age reports that Victoria's regions with the highest level of reported crime will get the same number of new police as the safest Melbourne suburbs.
Don Weatherburn asks why governments trumpet the virtues of evidence-based policy, while often ignoring it in practice.
Using jails as back-door mental institutions leads to rights breaches according to Graeme Innes, Disability Discrimination Commissioner.
The Age reports that in 2011, 20% of trial judges' sentences reviewed by the Court of Appeal were considered excessive while only seven received longer sentences because the original sentence was inadequate.
Chief Magistrate Ian Gray delivers an oration to Victoria University Law School.
David Woodroffe, managing solicitor in criminal law at the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency in the NT, commenting on the Northern Territory intervention says there's been a heavy investment on institutions focused on punishing criminal behaviour, while providing minimal services to help those who turn to crime in the first place: 'There's more policing in communities - more police stations and police posts - so more people will come to the attention of police, will be charged, get into the [criminal justice] process. But there's no corresponding in relation to other services-there's no youth diversion programs, there's no rehabilitation services, etc'.
Chris Cunneen, Professor of Justice and Social Inclusion at James Cook University: 'Sentencing and imprisonment is not related to crime. It's a function of government policy. The fact that we're locking up more people is really about changes to law and practice'.
Last night's address by Justice Chris Maxwell, President, Court of Appeal, Supreme Court of Victoria, to ICJ Victoria Sentencing Forum.
Josh Gordon says Melbourne is a safe place to live and asks what's all the hysteria about.
A review of the public sentencing forum convened by the International Commission of Jurists.
An op ed in the Herald Sun by Caroline Counsel, President of the Law Institute of Victoria.
A consequence of the coalition government's tough sentencing regime could be an increase in trial delays says County Court Chief Judge Michael Rozenes.
Caroline Counsel, the president of the Law Institute of Victoria says that it's important that the on line sentencing survey results don't dictate sentences.
Right Now, a volunteer, not-for-profit media organisation led by young people focused on human rights issues in Australia reviews our forum on why prisons are not the answer to reducing crime and disadvantage.
Be part of the debate about sentencing and the results of the on line sentencing 'survey'.
A Victoria Law Foundation Fellowship report by Gary Sullivan, Principal Solicitor at West Heidelberg Community Legal Service. It examines the relationship between poverty and crime and proposes a number of criminal justice and welfare reforms.
Victorian Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (VACRO) has released a research report- Next Generation on the Outside: 'When a family member is arrested and put within the prison system, the supports for the family are sometimes quite inadequate. Improvements are needed'.
Smart Justice for Young People was officially launched today. Spokesperson Tiffany Overall indicated that the group wants to develop policies in line with what the 'experts and young people themselves' say, rather than 'being driven by the media and waves of popular community opinion'. Also speaking at the launch was judge Paul Grant, president of the Children's Court. Access his presentation on the resources and publications page on the tab for Smart Justice for Young People.
Concerns over funding cuts to the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning.
A Footscray-based program which has helped more than 154 women newly released from prison to get 16-week job placements and undertake training to help them find jobs has had its funding from the federal and state governments cut.
Tamar Hopkins from the Flemington and Kensington Community Legal Centre on why police should issue receipts to people routinely stopped in order to help cut racial targeting.
Smart Justice for Young People is a new youth-focused arm of Smart Justice that is committed to developing smart solutions to the most pressing justice issues for young people. Join us for the launch at 9am on Wednesday 16 November at the Law Institute of Victoria, 470 Bourke Street, Melbourne. Please RSVP by 14 November to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Law Report asks if it is time to move beyond criminal prosecution for every sexual offence.
David Biles, criminologist, on his prediction for prison expansion in Victoria: 'For the past 30 or 40 years Victoria has been the envy of all Australian states for its low imprisonment rate and hence a smaller expenditure burden for the cost of its prison system. This means that Victoria has been able to devote proportionately more of its budget to health, education and infrastructure than any other state. This position is likely to be lost if the Government intention to increase the length of prison sentences is not modified'.
Keynote address by Frank Vincent QC AO at a Jesuit Social Services and Public Policy Institute Symposium: 'The criminal justice system operating at its best is still a very blunt instrument that centrally relies on the threat and imposition of punishment to achieve its objectives. However, only a moment's thought is required to appreciate that there can be far better ways of reducing the incidence of the behaviours concerned, including dealing with the factors that have contributed to the engagement in such conduct in the first place'.
The LIV today called on the State Government to rethink its commitment to baseline sentencing, saying it will not work in deterring crime.
An update from NSW where Attorney-General Greg Smith is implemeting some Smart Justice policies: 'This government does not believe success on law and order issues can alone be judged by how many people are locked up. We believe in policies that break the cycle of re-offending. Every prisoner should have an opportunity for rehabilitation and that is in the interests of the whole community'.
Jesuit Social Services invites you to a national justice symposium in Melbourne on 21-22 October.
Marcia Neave, judge of the Court of Appeal, Supreme Court of Victoria and Michael Rozenes, Chief Judge of the County Court on why they support piloting and carefully evaluating a diversion scheme for young sexual offenders.
Jesuit Social Services has emphasised the importance of parole in changing offending behaviour, reducing crime and, ultimately, improving community safety in its submission to SAC on the review of the adult parole system. 'The evidence is clear that offenders who have the prospect of parole are more likely to engage in treatments such as those relating to alcohol and other drugs, which means they are actually changing behaviours and are less likely to reoffend', says Chief Executive Officer Julie Edwards.
Judge Michael Bourke, chairman of the Youth Parole Board expresses concern in the Board's annual report about the impact of mandatory sentencing. The report also refers to a survey that exposes the extent of disavantage among young people in detention. It reveals that 55% of the survey group were victims of abuse, trauma or neglect and 66% had been suspended or expelled from school while 34% had mental health issues.
Sam Biondo is the executive officer of the Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association. Commenting on a recently released Ombudsman's report, he says responsibility to better fund and resource the alcohol and other drug treatment sector in prisons lies with the Baillieu Government, which seems happy to increase prison numbers, but reluctant to implement evidence-informed health and rehabilitative initiatives which save lives and prevent harm.
Frank Vincent, former judge of appeal of the Supreme Court of Victoria responds to the question of whether judges and magistrates are out of touch with community expectations when sentencing offenders for serious crimes:'One thing is certain, and that is that the answer is not to be found in the responses to a hopelessly superficial newspaper questionnaire that trivialises the decision-making processes, or by reference to a half-dozen graphically and partially described cases. Rather the answer lies in careful analysis of what the courts actually do and the bases of sentencing'.
In a report on police use of force, the Human Rights Law Centre recommends the introduction of tighter rules to regulate police use of capsicum spray with an indeppendent review body such as the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission to monitor compliance with the rules.
Some people accused of sex offences should be dealt with outside the traditional courts in a system similar to South Africa's truth and reconciliation commissions says Justice Marcia Neave. She says she's spoken to many sexual assault victims who were not concerned only with retribution- they also want a voice in the criminal justice system.
The NSW Attorney-General Greg Smith says the government will invest $46 million in programs to reduce reoffending.
The New South Wales government has announced it will introduce social benefit bonds. Under the scheme, private investors will purchase bonds and the money raised will then be invested in programs addressing social disadvantage. A return on the bonds will be paid when the program has met its objectives. The UK is currently trialling social bonds and in the US Barak Obama has announced a similar scheme in his 2012 budget.
Police should be required to issue a written receipt to people they stop and question on the street, according to a Flemington and Kensington Community Legal Centre proposal to impose accountability checks on Victoria Police.
Join Smart Justice, the Centre for the Human Rights of Imprisoned People , Flat Out, the Federation of Community Legal Centres and Inside Access at a public forum in Melbourne on why more prisons are not the answer to reducing crime and disadvantage.
Hugh De Kretser from Smart Justice and other commentators on the law and order agenda on ABC1 TV's 7.30 Victoria.
The chief executive of Domestic Violence Victoria Fiona McCormack says it's good news that more family violence is being reported. She says that family violence is a factor in over 50 per cent of substantiated child protection cases and it's a key driver in homelessness.
An Ombudsman's report reveals poor FOI practices, a less than open atttitude and a preparedness to conduct litigation without complying with Model Litigant Guidelines.
Recruiting 1700 police over four years is likely to deliver lower-quality recruits because it has been designed to cater to a 'strict political timetable' warns the OPI. The OPI says that the historic alignment of debates about police numbers with political law and order campaigns is problematic. Michael Strong, Director, Police Integrity cautions against assuming that more police alone will mean a more efficient or improved quality policing service.
Chief Justice Marilyn Warren has mooted the idea of judges holding post trial victim debriefings to explain the sentencing process.
Hugh De Kretser from Smart Justice and other community sector leaders and thinkers present the latest insights, approaches and challenges to addressing major causes of disadvantage, particularly in outer urban, rural and regional communities at the VCOSS Congress 2011 (session 2).
Commenting on the recently released Department of Justice annual repport, Opposition corrections spokeswoman Jill Hennessy has accused the government of committing to sentencing changes without grasping the implications for the prison population.
According to the Age, the Ombudsman's report tabled in State Parliament this week paints a disturbing picture of a prison system unable to cope with the healthcare demands imposed on it, and a political leadership unwilling to provide the money and other resources needed to fix the problem.
Justice Lex Lasry, President of the Victorian chapter of the International Commission of Jurists, tells Media Watch that he hopes the state government is not proposing to adjust the various aspects of sentencing legislation on the basis of this flawed survey.
VAADA calls for specialist drug and alcohol workers to be deployed with police when people are arrested and fined for being drunk in a public place.
An opinion editorial arguing that while the courts face a challenge in dealing with extreme violence by minors, a government mindset skewed towards popular prejudice is unhelpful and runs the risk of turning us into a needlessly harsh and fearful society.
In a recent decision, the Court of Appeal has ruled that general deterrence is excluded as a relevant sentencing factor for young people. This is at odds with the state government's plans to introduce mandatory sentencing for new offences such as gross violence which it says it is introducing to 'send a message' that violence will not be tolerated.
Ian Gray, Victoria's chief magistrate descibes proposals for mandatory sentencing as a straitjacket on courts and the Department of Justice/Herald Sun on line sentencing survey as unlikely to reflect broad public consensus.
The latest Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report, 'Headline Indicators for Children's Health, Development and Wellbeing' 2011 has just been released. Helen Milroy is a Professor and Director of the Centre for Aboriginal Medical and Dental Health at University of Western Australia. She says that by not addressing infant mortality, child abuse and the resulting trauma, we're condemning Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to lifelong disadvantage, negative life outcomes and early death.
Supreme Court Judge David Harper, president of the Judicial Conference of Australia has criticised the state government's new Herald Sun sentencing survey as deficient and open to abuse, and says it is unlikely to accurately reflect public opinion on punishing offenders.
Retired Supreme Court Judge Frank Vincent QC and former New South Wales Director of Public Prosecutions Nicholas Cowdery QC voice their opposition to the Victorian Government's plan to introduce minimum sentences.
The Sentencing Advisory Council (SAC) has released two new reports. The first report examines how punitive Victorians are while the second report looks at community views of the purposes of sentencing. According to SAC, the reports show that community views on sentencing are complex, and that giving people more information, such as specific case studies, allows more nuanced responses to survey questions.
Peter Norden commenting on a recently released study in the Medical Journal of Australia which found that one recently prisoner dies every day in Australia due to suicide or drug overdose, 'I think in Australia we need to move beyond what I like to call a penal settlement mentality with respect to the use of imprisonment... the old approach of putting people in prison needs to be seriously assessed...And that is why the Productivity Commission and other similar organisations really needs to look at the huge expense both in terms of financial terms and human terms that the expanding Australian prison population presents to the community today'.
Victorian Council of Social Service CEO Cath Smith says it is vital railway guards are fully trained to interact with vulnerable people who regularly used public transport - young people, people with mental health issues, people with drug and alcohol issues, Aborigines, and culturally diverse groups.
The Law Report interview with the North Australia Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) which helps people released from prison find education, work, and accommodation.
Hugh de Kretser, spokesperson for Smart Justice calls for an independent police complaints investigation system that would be transparent, fair and in the best interests of Victorians and police.
Hugh De Kretser from Smart Justice talks to the panel about reducing knife carrying and knife violence.
The Federal Government has committed $1.2m for youth diversion and prisoner rehabilitation programs as well as $750,000 for the Northern Territory Aboriginal interpreter service and a further $850,000 for Aboriginal legal aid. In making the funding announcement, Attorney-General Robert McClelland ackowledged that it is important to focus on developing a range of prevention and early intervention measures as part of criminal justice system.
Father Chris Riley from Youth off the Streets responds to the release of the 'Doing time-Time for Doing' Senate report.
The Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs recommends a focus on early intervention and the wellbeing of Indigenous children rather than punitive responses, to reduce Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander peoples over-representation in the criminal justice system.
'We need to start addressing the true impacts of alcohol and drug use, not by increasing prison capacity, but by tackling the impacts on individuals, families and the wider community in more appropriate ways', says Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association (VAADA) Executive Officer Sam Biondo.
'The idea that being tough on crime reduces the prison population is just plain wrong', says Amanda Watkinson, Service Innovation and Advocacy Director, spokesperson for Jesuit Social Services, on 3KND's radio program, 'Razor Sharp'.
Victoria Legal Aid's director of criminal law services Saul Holt is concerned about the introduction of two-year minimum sentences for 16 and 17-year-olds found guilty of a new offence of gross violence. 'The government's proposed definition of 'gross violence' which includes violent attacks in a gang of three or more - could capture children in a schoolyard brawl, where a child suffers minor injuries'.
Criminal Law specialist George Defteros on why the mandatory sentencing plan for 16 and 17 year olds for a new offence of gross violence is wrong.
Peter Norden, vice chancellor's fellow at the Melbourne Law School has condemned a government sentencing policy which will introduce statutory two year minimum sentences for 16 and 17 year olds convicted of a new offence of 'gross violence'.
Farrah Tomazin in the Age: 'If the government really wants to get tough on crime, it should address what happens behind closed doors. For too many women and children, that's where violence is at its ugliest'.
Ararat prison, currently being built as a public-private partnership (PPP) is not value for money for taxpayers according to a 'government insider'.
In an investigation into an allegation about the accuracy of crime statistics released before last year's state election, the Victorian Ombudsman says that crime statistics are crucial and recommends the establishment of independent body to manage the release of crime statistics.
A move away from "tough-on-crime" policies in Texas and other conservative US States should serve as a lesson for the Victorian government, argues Royce Millar in The Age.
Royce Millar for The Age reports on government allocatation of funds for an environmental assessment of Crown land at Ravenhall, near Deer Park, a site approved by Labor for construction of a mega-prison in 2009.
The Age editorial cautions that "the consequence of relying on incarceration with mandatory terms as the answer to crime is more prisoners, not greater public safety, because the experience of jail is more likely to harden young offenders than to rehabilitate them."
Victorians face a multibillion-dollar bill for a 'critical' prison expansion program, The Age reports.
Victoria's overall crime rate has fallen by 4.1 per cent according to the latest Victoria Police statistics.
Transcript of Radio National's Law Report on some interesting law and order reversals in New South Wales and Victoria.
Greg Barns, director of the Australian Lawyers Alliance on why Attorney-General Robert Clark ought to rethink his plan for mandatory sentencing of young offenders convicted of serious assaults.
Jesuit Social Services CEO Julie Edwards has has criticised Victoria's indiscriminate 'one size fits all' approach to sentencing and suggested the state's Attorney General should 'look north of the border as the new Liberal Government looks to reduce Australia's largest jail population by diverting offenders away from the prison system and reducing the rate of re-offending'.
Jordana Cohen from Youthlaw on why proposed statutory minimum sentencing breaches human rights and leads to avoidable injustices.
Hugh de Kretser, spokesman for Smart Justice on the online sentencing survey: 'The survey method chosen seems designed to produce a result that supports the government's punitive sentencing policies. It's a great idea to listen to community attitudes to sentencing, but not through flawed methodology.'
The Age on the Coalition government announcement that it will conduct an on line survey to help set criminal sentences: 'This sort of nonsense may represent clever politics, but it's a shocking way to conduct public policy. You can almost guarantee the results will not accurately reflect public opinion because of the survey's ''self-selecting'' approach.'
Stephen Keim SC, president of Austalian Lawyers for Human Rights has urged the Coalition Government to move past its current attempts at populism. He argues that online polling is the least reliable indicator of public opinion. 'Usually, it is those whose enthusiasm is charged by extreme views on a subject who respond, often more than once, to such polls. In addition, it is not unheard of that political parties and interest groups seek to skew such poll results for their own advantage.'
The Law Institute of Victoria (LIV) says the Coalition Government is undermining the judiciary by allowing a public on line survey to help set criminal sentences.
Hugh de Kretser, spokesperson for Smart Justice: 'The Baillieu government raised concerns over police crime reporting when in opposition - its legacy should be setting up an agency so that public trust in crime reporting can be restored'.
Greg Barnes, a director of Australian Lawyers Alliance on the Coalition Government's plans to introduce a new offence of 'gross violence' that will have a statutory minimum 2 year sentence for 16 and 17 year olds: 'Placing them behind bars, irrespective of the circumstances of each case and without having regard to their mental capacity at the time of offending, is simply a recipe for higher recidivism rates on release and the high cost to taxpayers that goes with that and the incarceration'.
An Age editorial on why rehabilitation is the public's best long-term protection.
In this report, the OPI finds that Victoria Police is unable to produce accurate crime clearance statistics primarily due to inherent flaws in the design of LEAP and the outmoded and flawed systems for entering data onto it, rather than the intentional wrongdoing of any ndividual.
An Age editorial, noting the State Government's oppostion to safe drug-injecting rooms: 'The issue, then, for Victoria's politicians comes down to this- are they willing to ignore the evidence and condemn people to die for the sake of winning the ill-informed tough-on-crime vote?'
In this overview, the AIC refers to limited information available on the nature, extent, cause, motivation and possible growth of knife carriage which it says highlights the need for improved data collection, along with the development of clearer evidence for what works to reduce knife carrying and knife offences.
This Australian Institute of Criminology report concludes that to in order to prevent the cycle of crime, policymakers should focus their attention on reducing environmental risk through intervention programs targeting children known to be at increased risk of involvement in crime due to the criminality of their parents.
Justice David Harper of the Court of Appeal, Supreme Court of Victoria on sentencing, public opinion and the media.
YMCA's Bridge Project, helping young people get back into the community and reducing the re-offending rate gets State Government commitment to on-going funding.
Youth Support and Advocacy (YSAS) launches a new early intervention service with $4.5 million in state government funding to divert young people from the criminal justice system by addressing the underlying causes of offending and anti-social behaviour.
This Sentencing Advisory Council states that in light of empirical evidence outlined in its report, it is critical that the purposes of sentencing be considered independently-according to their own merits-and that caution be exercised when imprisonment is justified as a means of deterring all crimes and all kinds of offenders.
A Sunday Age editorial says that it's encouraging that the coalition government wants to continue work on sexual assault reform but warns that changing a deeply ingrained reluctance to report and prosecute sexual offences will take patience and persistence.
Simon Overland concedes that the existing eight-week training period for PSOs is not enough for officers guarding train stations.
The Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association (VAADA) has released papers from its annual conference held earlier this year.
A short paper from the Human Rights Law Resource Centre calling for strengthened evidence-based correctional and community policies and programs and an independent prison inspectorate to monitor and report on prison operations and conditions.
'The bottom line is that we've seen a huge expansion of the whole prison system over the past two decades,' Chris Cunneen, Professor of Justice and Social Inclusion at James Cook University. 'More and more money is going into corrective services but it's going into expanding custodial environments rather than improving the conditions within those environments... so we not only have more prisons, we have larger prisons. That has impacts in terms of deaths in custody because you've got more reliance on electronic forms of surveillance rather than human contact-contrary to what the Royal Commission was arguing-[and] more prisoners to fewer staff.'
The Austalian Insititute of Health and Welfare has released a report on the juvenille system system, 2008-09. Key findings: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people continue to be over-represented, especially in detention and young people from areas of low socioeconomic status are more likely to be under supervision.
Marking the 20 year anniversary of the report from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda is calling for a new approach: 'We've simply got to stop locking up Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and put our resources and political will into trying proven alternatives like justice reinvestment'.
Director of YouthLaw, Ariel Couchman and others voice their concern on ABC radio.
The Sunday Age argues that safety on public transport is an important issue but that the Coaltion government should not be strictly bound by a populist and poorly targeted policy to place armed protective service officers on metropolitan train stations: 'Isolated stations with a handful of commuters do not need full-time armed guards. Increase security in some stations, with patrols on rail lines and retain some resources for intensive operations at identified trouble spots. Many other stations may be more tangibly improved by ticket sellers and working toilets'.
Rail operator Metro is conducting a risk assessment on safety issues with armed protective services officers at train stations.
The proposal to place two armed protective service officers on every metropolitan railway station after dark seems neither a wise use of public money nor an effective safety precaution according to this Age editorial. It cites the 2009 crime statistics which indicate that more than 45 per cent of assaults took place at just 10 of about 200 stations in the metropolitan network while at 116 stations there were no assaults at all.
An Age editorial on the decision by the coalition government to retain the specialist courts established under the previous government.
Liberty Victoria president Spencer Zifcak on armed protective security officers at night time at train stations: 'My concern is that with only three weeks' firearms training, you might get a situation where these officers panic and someone gets shot. Public safety has to be the priority and properly trained police officers are the best option.'
John Silvester comments on the plan to employ 940 extra protective services officers so that every Melbourne railway station will have two armed guards at night: 'Make no mistake, it is a disaster waiting to happen'
A teenager who was searched by police at Frankston train station was fined for carrying a box cutter she says she used to open boxes at her night filler job at K-Mart. She is concerned that the $1000 fine will limit her job prospects and is seeking legal advice.
A tourist with cerebral palsy has made a complaint to the Office of Police Integrity after police arrested him because they assumed he was drunk.
The legal community in Victoria welcomes the decision made by the Attorney-General Robert Clark to retain and expand specialist courts such as the Neighbourhood Justice Centre and the Koori Court.
The Victorian Auditor-General's Office has investigated whether the Neighbourhood Justice Centre and the Court Integrated Services Program (CISP) are reducing reoffending. The report concludes that CISP demonstrably reduced reoffending while definitive conclusions cannot yet be made for the Neighbourhood Justice Centre because the evaluation sample (the number of people who have completed the program so far) was too small.
Key findings from the latest Sentencing Advisory Council survey of 300 randomly selected Victorians show there is very strong support for using alternatives to prison for mentally ill, young or drug addicted offenders.
David Indermaur, Associate Professor, Crime Research Centre at University of Western Australia: 'If we recognize the real tragedy of crime, we become more concerned about those directly affected by it, and choose at every point, to focus on what reduces suffering, not, what feels good. We do this, not because we don't care about the victims of crime but rather precisely because we do'.
The new NSW Attorney-General Greg Smith says that the coalition did not not indulge in the traditional law-and-order auction in the lead up to the election because many of the changes to criminal justice system have not worked, or have made aspects of the system far too complex.He cites sentencing as an example and argues that tougher sentencing has led to much confusion by courts and successful appeals.
In a refreshing change, an election that wasn't dominated by a law and order auction.
The new Victorian Attorney-General Robert Clark says his priorities are 'a safer Victoria, more respect for victims, reinforcing the independence of the courts, cutting court delays and improving access to justice'.
The Australian Institute of Criminology has reviewed
Corrections Commissioner Bob Hastings concedes that the Coalition government's tough on crime agenda will put pressure on the prison system which has seen the number of women prisoners in Victoria increase by almost 68 per cent over the last 10 years.
University of Western Australia criminologist David Indermaur has warned that a lack of balance and independent debate along with politicians' fears of a soft-on-crime tag results in state laws that risked perpetuating the cycle of violent crime.
The Coalition says it will encourage greater use of non-custodial punishment for less serious offences if it wins the state election on 26 March.
'A focus on rehabilitation and reducing reoffending was seen as being soft on crime, when in fact it is effective in reducing crime,' concedes the UK Shadow justice secretary.
A critique of the Coalition's law and order policies.
County Court Judge Frances Hogan commenting at the recent Brosnan Breakfast: 'Early intervention in a rehabilitative way, rather than emphasis on punitive measures, is the only hope of saving many young people, not to mention the cost to the community approaching $100,000 per head per year, of having a person in prison'.
Paul Papalia, MP, is arguing the case for justice reinvestment in Western Australia.
The Finanical Review (4 February) reported that the Law Society of New South Wales is calling for a re-think of tough on crime policies in the lead up to the State election on 26 March.
A report by the Jesuit Social Services calls on the government to reform remand by resourcing more heavily in support options for young people outside of prison.
A recently released study from the Australian Institute of Criminology reveals that the more informed the public is about judicial decisions, the more likely they are to agree with criminal sentences.
The Victorian Interchurch Criminal Justice Taskforce is urging the Victoria government to undertake sentencing law reform gradually and advocates for the focus to be on rehabilitation and more broadly based prevention programs.
An opinion article from the Age which argues that politicians who have campaigned on tough on crime platforms have distorted understandings of what imprisoning people can achieve.
UK justice secretary Ken Clarke's proposal to reduce the number of prisoners by around 3,000 over four years is in line with the thinking of prison reformers who argue that building more prisons is not a long term solution to reducing crime.
Victorian Prison Chaplaincy coordinator Jenny Hayes says that Victoria's prisons are overflowing with people who should not be in jail and is calling on the government to change imprisonment laws.
According to the principles of a newly formed group of US Conservatives: 'we are known for being tough on crime, but we must also be tough on criminal justice spending'. The group 'Right on crimes' believes that prisons have the unintended consequence of hardening non violent, low-risk offenders-making them a greater risk to the public than when they entered. Right On Crime signatory Newt Gingrich says that the group's campaign represents a 'seismic shift in the legislative landscape and opens the way for a common-sense left-right agreement on an issue that has kept the parties apart for decades'.
This Age editorial notes that the community is starting to understand more and more that locking up thousands of people each year at well over $50,000 each can be an incredible waste of money. As an alternative, it argues that investment in substance misuse and mental health programs will have a much needed impact on our ever increasing prison populations, and in turn improve the safety, health and well being of communities in the long term.
The Arkansas prison population has doubled over the past 20 years. In response, the Government is implementing bi-partisan, evidence based recommendations to increase public safety and reduce recidivism by strengthening community supervision. This will save $875 million through averted prison construction and operating expenses.
Commenting on the law and order debate in Western Australia, that state's Law Society president Hylton Quail has called for political parties to abandon popular punitivism: 'New law and order initiatives are very easy to get through Parliament, they often have bi-partisan support. They are extremely cheap because they simply require the stroke of a pen and don't require the commitment of any resources. But we can't go on like this. All of these laws are predicated on the assumption that the criminal justice system is able to change people's behaviour. The bottom line is that sentencing is at the end of the line. You have to address the cause of crime if you intend to really change things. We are simply not doing that.'
A media release from Smart Justice opposing a Bill to abolish suspended sentences which was introduced in the opening session of Parliament yesterday. The Baillieu Government has indicated that it wants to reduce violent crime, yet abolishing suspended sentences is counterproductive because it is likely to lead to a costly and unsustainable increase in the prison population without tackling the causes of crime.
The Age argues that the effect of the government's sentencing changes may well be to make Victoria a harsher, more fearful place than it is.
A report released by the UK National Audit Office (NAO) 'The Youth Justice System in England and Wales: Reducing Offending by Young People' has found that young people receiving more serious community sentences and custodial sentences are just as likely to reoffend today as they were in 2000. According to the NAO, more should be done to find out which interventions are the most effective in dealing with offending behaviour so that, in future, money can be directed at what works.
According to this Age editorial, the incoming Coalition government will not find the solutions to crime quite so simple as its rhetoric: 'There are serious doubts about the effectiveness of costly law-and-order policies. The evidence of higher imprisonment rates elsewhere is that this does not cut crime and, indeed, reduces prospects for rehabilitation'.
The Institute for Public Policy Research in the UK is about to release a report which shows that there are potentially huge savings to be made by reforming the sentencing system so that more people are given community sentences and fewer sent to prison. The Re-Designing Justice report will be published in early 2011.
The Ministry of Justice has released a green paper which aims to end the rise in prisoner numbers and break the cycle of crime by tackling the causes of reoffending. The paper refers to the potential for greater gains through prevention, early intervention and diversion. 'Green Paper Evidence Report- Breaking the Cycle: Effective Punishment, Rehabilitation and Sentencing of Offenders' (Cm 7972) is available at www.justice.gov.uk.
In this post election analysis of the coalition's law and order policy, Criminal Bar Association vice-chair Michael Cahill says 'Mandatory sentences are unjust because they impeach the fundamental principal that punishment must fit the crime'.
This Canadian study critically analyses the costs of its government's tough on crime agenda which comes at a time when crime rates have been reducing for over 20 years. It argues that tough measures do not produce public safety: 'Longer sentences, harsher prison conditions and the incarceration of more Canadians will return the system to a time when prisons were extremely violent, and when the end result was more rather than less crime. Recidivism is more likely to occur when offenders have been locked up for long periods with few programs of rehabilitation'. The study is also critical of the effects of mandatory minimum sentences which include removal of judicial discretion, failure to deter would be criminals and some unexpected negative consequences on the adminsitration of justice and Aboriginal people.
The most important flaw in the Baillieu law and order plan, according to Greg Barns, Director of the Australian Lawyers Alliance, is that crime rates will not be reduced by sending more people to jail.
The Age reports that 'as law and order became a key theme of the election campaign, the number of Victorians behind bars grew by 169 or 3.8 per cent in the year - while in the rest of Australia, the number of prisoners grew by just four, or 0.02 per cent'.
In this media release, Smart Justice criticises the Coalition promise to build 500 new prison beds at a cost of $268 million as a waste of taxpayers money. There are almost 40,000 households on the waiting list for public housing in Victoria, yet the coalition is spending $260 million on 500 prison beds, a construction cost of half a million dollars per prison bed, leaving aside the $90,000 per year average cost of housing a prisoner. Instead of 500 prison beds, this money could provide accommodation for over 1,000 families at risk of homelessness.
According to Cath Smith, VCOSS CEO, the Coalition's announcement that they will introduce mandatory minimum sentences for a range of criminal offences will do nothing to improve community safety. 'Putting people in prison doesn't solve crime-or deal with the problems that lead people to commit offences. Instead we have to look at the issues that can lead to crime-poverty and disadvantage, homelessness, low levels of education, drug and alcohol and mental health issues to name but a few'. 'The evidence clearly shows that investing in key social supports such as mental health and drug and alcohol services is significantly more cost effective than prison and delivers safer communities and better outcomes for the individual'.
In a letter to the Herald Sun, Julie Edwards, CEO, Jesuit Social Services comments on the Coalition's law and order election policy and says that prisons are the least effective and most costly policy solution for community safety.
Comment in the Herald Sun on the Coalition's minimum sentence standards:The Community and Public Sector Union estimates that taxpayers could face a $2 billion bill with the Coalition's plans to build new prisons to accommodate its tough stance on law and order.
Smart Justice comments in the Financial Review on the Coalition election promise to introduce minimum sentence terms: 'The court is best placed to decide the right penalty for an offence, taking into account the unique circumstances of each case. The Coalition policy is a step towards politicians imposing sentences, not courts'.
The Coalition election policy to introduce minimum sentence standards is a backward step which will not reduce the crime rate according to Smart Justice.
More comment from Hugh de Kretser, spokesperson for Smart Justice on the Coalition's plans for fixed minimum jail terms: 'They make it harder for courts to ensure that the punishment fits the crime and do nothing to reduce crime rates. If the Coalition was serious about protecting the community, it would focus on an issue like child neglect, which has been shown to be one of the major causes of crime'.
Commenting on the Coalition's election promise to introduce minimum sentencing standards, Steven Stevens, President of the Law Institute of Victoria in this media release says: 'There is no merit in a proposal which attempts to dictate to judges and magistrates, and is neither necessary or beneficial'.
'Fixed minimum jail terms are a retrograde step towards mandatory sentencing in Victoria', said Smart Justice spokesperson Hugh de Kretser in a media release issued today in response to the Coalition's latest election policy announcement.
Hugh de Kretser, spokesperson for Smart Justice comments on the law and order debate in the lead up to the state election this Saturday: 'The government is spending millions of dollars to make people feel safe even though they are safe, which is how ridiculous the debate has got. While crime has been dropping 30 per cent over the past 10 years our prison population has gone up by about 50 per cent and it's not being driven by any crime wave, it's been driven by more punitive sentencing practices and a climate of this law-and-order auction'.
Peter Norden AO, in his John Barry Lecture:'More than 30 years experience in monitoring criminal justice policy has told me that there is little to be gained from a bidding war on who could be tougher on law and order, other than pure political advantage'.The full transcript is available at http://newsroom.melbourne.edu/news/n-415
Greg Barns, director of the Australian Lawyers Alliance argues that building more prisons is a waste of taxpayers' money as it does not reduce crime.
Fear of violence is killing Victorian cultureAccording to Paul Bird, Mission Australia's state director, Victoria's debate about violence and personal safety has impacted on young people.He refers to the latest national survey of young Australians, by Mission Australia, which reveals that 32% of young Victorians see crime, safety and violence as one of the biggest issues. In this article, he argues: 'We have a responsibility as adults-and our media and community leaders particularly so-to recognise that inflammatory talk about crime and violence, while good for circulation figures or votes, can be detrimental to us as a society'. The National Survey of Young Australians 2010 is available at www.missionaustralia.com.au. More >
In the lead up to the election, the Law Institute of Victoria (LIV) analyses the responses from Victorian political parties on 11 key justice issues.[PDF link is 1.02 MB]
Lynette Buoy from the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare urges political parties to increase funding to the child protection system, including early intervention programs, to address issues such as the over-representation of young people, formerly in state care, in the criminal justice system.
The cost of higher imprisonment rates at a time when the crime rate is actually decreasing.
In this fact sheet, the Inter Church Criminal Justice Taskforce considers issues of criminal justice, calling for a greater focus on families, education, mental health, decent employment, accommodation and the needs of victims. It argues that this will a make strong and safe Victoria, where prison is a last resort.
Lawyers Weekly reports on Smart Justice's opposition to the Coalition's plans for fixed minimum jail terms.
The Victorian Heads of Churches urge politicians to shift the election debate to reducing the number of prisoners rather than increasing them. Read the responses from Bob Cameron, MP, Minister for Corrections andRobert Clark MP, Shadow Attorney-General.
Hugh de Kretser, spokesperson for Smart Justice on the ABC Law Report discussion on crime statistics and the trouble with knives.
The latest crime statistics, released today, throw into doubt the need for harsh new police powers and tougher penalties aimed at young people, according to Smart Justice in this media release.
The Sunday Age argues that sentencing should be based on facts not myths and misconceptions about the criminal justice system.
Victoria Police has been successful in reducing crime on Melbourne's train system since 2007-08, according to the Auditor-General's report. However the approach to improve passengers' perceptions of safety has not been effective. The report recomends that Victoria Police set targets for reducing crime based on the evidence about crime trends and the likely effectiveness of its strategies to address these trends.
The Government is going overboard by taking away human rights of children and those with intellectual disabilities in its crack down on knife crime, according to Smart Justice in this media release.
An article in The Age exposes the hidden social and financial costs to tough 'law-and-order' polcies on women in Victoria.
The community is not well served if election-fuelled debate about law and order becomes an auction about who can be tougher on crime, according to a coalition of legal and community organisations in this media release.
Speech presented by Hugh de Kretser, Executive Officer of the Federation of Community Legal Centers and Smart Justice spokesman at the launch of the Smart Justice project on the 27th of May 2010.
The Smart Justice Project will be launched at 10.30-11.30am at the Law Institute of Victoria, 470 Bourke Street, Melbourne. Speakers are Mukesh Haikerwal, former AMA President, Steve Stevens, LIV President, Vickie Roach, human rights activist and former prisoner and Hugh de Kretser, Executive Officer, Federation of Community Legal Centres. For more information and to register attendance see: http://www.liv.asn.au/Education---Events/Events/Smart-Justice-Launch.
In an Opinion piece published in the Sunday Herald Sun Hugh de Kretser heralds the advent of Smart Justice as a means of refocusing the criminal justice debate away from knee-jerk, vote grabbing policies.
Smart Justice comments in the Sunday Herald Sun about measures necessary to break the cycle of criminal behaviour: 'a more evidence-based approach to crime and an increased emphasis on rehabilitation of prisoners will see reoffending rates drop dramatically.'
Prisons and police spending the wrong priorities in today's 'disappointing' budget (Sourced from www.vcoss.org.au)
The following media release was taken from the Victorian Council of Social Service's website.
The following media release was taken from the Federation of Community Legal Centre's website.