Wednesday, February 17, 2016

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Criminals escape jail time as Victoria’s top prosecutor calls for urgent legal reforms

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Chief Crown Prosecutor Gavin Silbert, QC, says Community Corrections Orders aren’t working.
VICTORIA’s top prosecutor has called for urgent legal reforms as figures show thousands of criminals are escaping jail time.
More than 30,000 Community Corrections Orders were given to offenders last year in 11,577 cases before Magistrates’ Court of Victoria.
Thugs, paedophiles, armed robbers and domestic abusers have all walked free with no prison time or minimal sentences after being placed on the orders. It follows a guideline judgement handed down by the Court of Appeal in 2014.
Chief Crown Prosecutor Gavin Silbert, QC, said the orders were not working and immediate reform was needed.
“They’re going to have to get rid of them because the breaches (of CCOs) are going to swamp the County Court,’’ he said.
“What you are getting now is a little bit of prison and little bit of CCO. The whole law-and-order exercise has been a fraud by politicians.”
CCOs were introduced by the Baillieu Coalition government to replace suspended prison sentences.
But the 2014 guideline ruling said CCOs could replace a range of “medium” jail sentences. Criminals who previously would likely have been jailed have since walked free.
Some cases include:
A MITCHAM man found with hundreds of images and videos of child porn, including the rape of a child, 6, was freed in February on a four-year CCO.
A MAN, 37, who pleaded guilty to drugging a man, 62, before stealing over $300,000 in jewellery got a five-year CCO.
TWO thugs who attacked an intellectually disabled man in a Belmont library, leaving him with a broken arm, avoided jail last year.
A HOON driver in Ballarat who slammed into a vehicle at high speed while drag racing and then fled was banned for 10 months and given a 12- month CCO with no jail.
AN 18-year-old man who used Facebook to arrange a threesome with 14-year-old girls got a three-year CCO including 200 community work hours.
Some violent offenders were given minimal jail sentences coupled with CCOs.
CCOs were to be used to punish offenders in cases where a court believed a prison sentence was not warranted.
In 2014, the Director of Public Prosecutions asked the Court of Appeal for a guideline judgment on their use.
But Mr Silbert said that judges had since had to make decisions that were not in line with public expectations.
“(The ruling) says CCOs are punitive and should be regarded as serious punishment. If the community didn’t agree with suspended sentences, they’re not going to agree with these,” Mr Silbert said.
“(Also) in every plea of guilty, defence counsel stands up and cites (the ruling), saying you don’t have to go to jail even in homicides … and judges are listening,’’ he said.
Shadow attorney-general John Pesutto said CCOs were intended “to put real teeth into community-based sentences, not to allow violent and dangerous offenders to walk free when previously they would have been jailed to protect the community”.
“In our view, the Court of Appeal’s decision wrongly extended CCOs to serious offences generally, like aggravated burglary, some forms of sexual offences involving minors, as well as some kinds of rape and homicide,’’ he said.
But Attorney-General Martin Pakula said it was “high time the Liberals admitted that CCOs are operating exactly as they designed them to”.
He said the Government was monitoring use of CCOs, and “if it becomes clear that the design of the former government’s legislation is flawed, then we may have to fix it in the same way we’ve had to fix their Bail Act and their baseline sentencing debacle.”

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