Liberty Victoria strongly opposes the Sentencing (Community Correction Order) and Other Acts Amendment Bill 2016 (Vic) (‘The Bill’). It is an unnecessary reform to the Community Correction Order (‘CCO’) regime that further entrenches mandatory sentencing in Victoria.
This Bill follows a worrying trend. Successive Victorian Governments have followed a pattern of passing legislation to restrict the sentencing discretion of judicial officers as the independent umpire. That includes the Crimes Amendment (Gross Violence Offences) Act 2013, the Sentencing Amendment (Emergency Workers) Act 2014, the Sentencing Amendment (Coward's Punch Manslaughter and Other Matters) Act 2014, the Sentencing Amendment (Baseline Sentences) Act 2014 the Serious Sex Offenders (Detention and Supervision) Amendment (Community Safety) Act 2016, and the Crimes Amendment (Carjacking and Home Invasion) Bill 2016.
The practical effect of the Bill would be to further entrench a system of mandatory imprisonment, because it would create a category of offences where, with the removal of the CCO option, there is no other sentence available other than immediate imprisonment. While that will not create many issues in practice for category 1 offences such as murder, rape and incest, the Bill plainly creates a framework that can and will be ratcheted up over time, as has occurred with offences now attracting mandatory minimum sentences.
This is particularly likely to occur as part of highly politicised “law and order auction” campaigning at state elections, with each major party attempting to wedge its opponent as being “soft on crime”.