Give victims the right to appeal soft sentences

This article originally appeared in the Herald-Sun on 30 October 2018.

Earlier this year, two women were convicted of assaulting a paramedic but avoided prison after a judge found there were special circumstances justifying a more lenient punishment. The Victorian public were outraged.

Although the Government tightened the laws around offences against emergency services workers, the public’s confidence in the courts had already been shaken. This is a problem because Australians have consistently reported low confidence in the courts, especially their protection of victims’ interests.

Any one of us could be a victim of crime, and if that happens, we need to know that the standards applied by the courts will be in line with our community values. We need to trust that the courts have the same idea of justice that we have.

To hold judges to this expectation, when a sentence for a serious crime is unjustly lenient, victims should be able to direct the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to seek leave to appeal the sentence.

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Indigenous Incarceration: Reform Policy Should Not Compromise Equality Before The Law

This piece originally appeared in The Australian on 6 April 2018. It is about the Australian Law Reform Commission’s Pathways to Justice report, which can be found here. It draws on my research on Indigenous incarceration, which can be found here.

The exceptionally high rate of incarceration among indigenous Australians requires a policy response that does not compromise equality before the law or community safety.

Over the past decade, the national prison population rose by 43 per cent, with more than a third of this growth the result of more indigenous Australians being incarcerated. Indigenous Australians are incarcerated at 12.5 times the rate of the non-indigenous. This statistic should be read against a complex background of higher offending rates, including higher rates of violent offending, and under performance on all metrics of socio-economic wellbeing.

This issue is back on the national agenda following the release last week of the Australian Law Reform Commission’ report on indigenous incarceration, Pathways to Justice. This is a welcome contribution to the debate around criminal justice reform in Australia.

Unfortunately, however, the report makes some recommendations that would undermine the bedrock principle of equality before the law. There are policy options available to governments that do not infringe on this principle, some of which are also recommended in the report, and these should be preferred.

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Dignity is obtained through opportunity, not redistribution

This piece was co-authored with Daniel Wild (Research Fellow, IPA). It originally appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on 18 January 2018.

The most important task of public policy is to ensure the next generation of Australians have more opportunities to flourish than the last. But declining business investment, worsening school results, family breakdown, and youth joblessness suggest we are failing in this task.

This week, the left-leaning McKell Institute contributed to this important debate with the release of their report Mapping Opportunity: A National Index on Wages and Income.

Unfortunately, the report misses the mark.

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Public safety must always be the priority

This piece originally appeared in the Herald-Sun on 2 January 2018. It is behind a paywall here and on the IPA site here.

Under pressure, Victoria Police have now finally admitted that gangs of young people from African backgrounds are causing fear and havoc in Melbourne’s streets.

But despite that, Victoria’s police chief seems to think arresting people is somehow unfair. Acting Chief Commissioner Shane Patton appears to spend more time fretting about the “human rights” of juvenile rioters than he does about the interests of communities being terrorised and individuals being assaulted, robbed and worse.

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