Liberty Victoria is opposed to the mandatory minimum sentence provisions in the Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic), and accordingly is also opposed to the expansion of those provisions to alleged offences against custodial officers through the Crimes Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 ("the Bill").
In November 2015, the Attorney-General ("AG") gave a reference to the Sentencing Advisory Council (“SAC”) to advise on “Sentencing Guidance”. The SAC has been specifically asked to advise the AG on the most effective legislative mechanism to provide sentencing guidance to the courts in a way that promotes consistency of approach in sentencing offenders and promotes public confidence in the criminal justice system.
In light of the AG reference, this Bill is premature. The AG should not pre-empt the report and recommendations of the SAC given it will be giving careful consideration to different sentencing mechanisms, including mandatory minimum sentences.
Custodial officers should be safe in their workplaces. Often they will be dealing with people who are at their most vulnerable, dealing with drug addiction and withdrawal, mental health issues and significant trauma. However, there is no evidence relied upon by the Government that establishes that current sentencing practices for this type of offending are inadequate. The practical experience of those who work in the criminal law is that assaults against police, emergency workers and custodial officers are taken incredibly seriously by the Courts.
Any inadequate sentence can be addressed by a Crown appeal. If there is a systemic issue with sentencing standards then that should be addressed by the Crown seeking a guideline judgment from the Court of Appeal with regard to this category of offending.