Thursday, 3 February 2011

Legislation Watch: Sentencing Further Amendment Bill 2010

The new state government introduced legislation during the final sitting of Parliament last year to satisfy some pre-election commitments.

The three bills introduced were,

The first two bills allow state school principals to ban people from bringing weapons on to school grounds and expand the number and role of Protective Services Officers, respectively.

Sentencing Further Amendment Bill 2010

During the Second Reading of this Bill the Attorney General said,

Suspended sentences are a fiction that pretends offenders are serving a term of imprisonment, when in fact they are living freely in the community. A suspended sentence does not subject an offender to any restrictions, community service obligations or reporting requirements. As a consequence, many offenders actually incur no real punishment whatsoever for the offence they have committed and make no reparation to the community. Often those released on suspended sentences go on to commit further crimes.

You may remember that the previous government removed suspended sentences as an available disposition for certain offences just before the last election. (We discussed the Sentencing Amendment Act 2010 here). That Act will probably commence mid-year and will prohibit suspended sentences for offences designated as serious offences under s 3 of the Sentencing Act 1991.

(The only offence this impacts in the summary jurisdiction is the offence of making threats to kill a person under s 20 of the Crimes Act 1958.)

The effect of the pre-election amendments wasn't to make imprisonment mandatory for serious offences. Dispositions such as bonds, fines and community work remain available. But if the sentencing judge awards imprisonment it is not possible to then suspend the sentence.

The Sentencing Further Amendment Bill 2010 adds offences to the list of offences which cannot be suspended, by creating a new category of offences the legislation refers to as significant offences. These changes will not affect sentencing in the Magistrates' Court at all as any offence dealt with summarily is considered not to be a significant offence, even if it would be a significant offence if dealt with in the County Court.

The designated significant offences are,

  • causing serious injury recklessly
  • aggravated burglary
  • arson
  • arson causing death
  • trafficking in a large commercial quantity of a drug of dependence
  • trafficking in a commercial quantity of a drug of dependence)

The Second Reading speech suggests that a further removal of suspended sentences is planned for the next session of parliament.

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Carlos Spicyweiner said...

Why is reckless on the list but not intentional?

Carlos Spicyweiner

Michael said...

No suspended sentences or no home detention. We already incarcerate more people per capita than any state but WA. How many more jails are being built?

Thought not.

Dr Manhattan said...

Couldn't say, Michael. Thanks for the comment.

Carlos, the offence of intentionally causing a person serious injury is going to be an offence for which a suspended sentence cannot be imposed. (It's a serious offence under s 3 of the Crimes Act). The offence of recklessly causing a person a serious injury was not included in that definition so the new parliament have dubbed it a significant offence.

Jeremy Gans said...

The Education bill isn't just about authorising principals to ban items. It's actually about empowering them to search student bags and to 'ask' students to empty their pockets and reveal concealed items, if there's a reasonable suspicion that this 'search' will reveal either 'banned' items or items that are likely to be used in a 'harmful', violent or threatening manner.

Interestingly, principals are required to hand such items to the police if they request it and the 2R speech foreshadows liaisons between the schools and the cops. So, perhaps some of these searches will end up before the Children's Court?