Lawyers Lament Politicians Tough Talk on Crime

Victoria’s legal profession has panned both the Andrews Government and the State Opposition for their tough-talking policies on crime.

Senior legal figures told the MPC’s “Politics of Crime” election forum on 31 October that moves by both major parties to introduce mandatory sentencing to tackle violent crime in Victoria would not deal with the root causes of offending.

Attorney General Martin Pakula defended new legislation providing mandatory sentences for people who assault emergency services workers. Shadow Attorney General John Pesutto endorsed the Coalition’s plans to introduce mandatory sentencing for repeat violent offenders.

But veteran Supreme Court judge Lex Lasry said the justice system was under strain, partly because of political decisions to introduce tougher laws. He said more effort and resources were needed to deal with the social causes of crime.

Justice Lasry said that the “shocking” rise of methamphetamine use in the community was also a significant factor.

“Not many things shocked me over the last 10 years but I have been absolutely stunned at the prevalence of ice in our community,” he said.

"If you’ve got a kid of 17 or 18 who is embarking on that journey then their life is heading down the sewer very, very quickly and something has to be done about our drug problem."

Law Institute of Victoria president Belinda Wilson, said research showed mandatory sentencing was not a deterrent, while tougher sentencing and bail laws meant Victoria's jails were bursting, costing taxpayers $2.3 million a day.

The most recent figures from Corrections Victoria show there are a record 7980 prisoners in Victoria, 2899 of them still awaiting the conclusion of their cases.

Victoria’s prisoner population has doubled in just six years, while the number of remand prisoners has tripled, mostly due to tougher bail laws.

Read Adam Carey's Age summary here.

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