Equal justice at risk if judges consider Aboriginality in sentencing

This article originally appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on 22 September 2017.

During the past 10 years, incarceration in Australia has risen 40 per cent. A third of this is the result of more Indigenous Australians being jailed. Indigenous Australians are now jailed at a rate more than 12 times that of non-Indigenous Australians.

The Australian Law Reform Commission is conducting an inquiry into this disproportionate rate of incarceration and how the criminal justice system might be reformed to address it. There are a number of reforms being considered that have the potential to gain bipartisan support, such as making alternatives to prison, like work orders and home detention, more available to Indigenous offenders and improving access to justice by resolving issues such as a lack of translators.

Reformers should focus on ideas that have the potential for broad-based support and that reinforce traditional criminal justice principles like equality under the law, fair punishment, and personal responsibility. Moves to further separate the administration of justice for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians are unnecessary and contrary to the universality on which the authority of the criminal law depends. The NSW Bar Association’s proposal to amend sentencing laws to specifically take into account an offender’s Indigenous background and the high level of Indigenous incarceration should be rejected.

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The expensive problem with our prisons: why spending more doesn’t make us feel safer

This piece originally appeared on the ABC website on 8 August 2017.

Australia spends more on criminal justice than most other developed countries, but gets worse results. In world terms, we spend a lot on prisons and police but despite this, Australians consistently report feeling less safe than people in similar countries.

These are the findings of the latest report for the Institute of Public Affairs Criminal Justice Project, and they underline the need for criminal justice reform around Australia.

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NSW Reforms Point Way To Reducing High Rate Of Indigenous Incarceration

This article originally appeared in The Australian on 28 July 2017.

A report from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research shows the incarceration of indigenous Australians in that state has increased by 25 per cent since 2013. The report attributes this rise to more indigenous people being charged with, and imprisoned for, stalking and intimidation ­offences, defendants spending more time on remand and more ­breaches of good behaviour bonds and suspended sentences leading to imprisonment.

Recent reforms announced by the NSW government will help. In May, the government unveiled plans to abolish suspended sentences and expand the use of intensive corrections orders, giving judges more options for ­imposing conditions on low-risk offenders, such as home detention, curfews and movement ­restrictions.

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Lionel Messi is a White-Collar Criminal

This piece originally appeared on the IPA FreedomWatch blog on 9 June 2017.

Lionel Messi is in Melbourne with his Argentinian teammates to play Brazil at the MCG tonight. But should he actually be locked up in a Spanish jail?

Messi was convicted last year of evading millions of euros in taxes. His appeal was denied last month and his sentence of 21 months in prison and a €2 million fine was upheld. Messi, however, is likely to avoid jail because in Spain, first offences carrying sentences of less than two years are usually suspended.

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Changes could reduce reoffending for low-risk criminals

This article originally appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on 16 May 2017.

The NSW government continues to lead the way on innovative criminal justice policy. Having last year committed $3.8 billion to new and improved prisons, the government is now pivoting to reforms designed to reduce the need for further prison spending over the longer-term, by lowering reoffending and improving community safety.

The government last week announced a package of reforms, including the abolition of suspended sentences and a new procedure for managing offenders released on parole. While prison is absolutely necessary for violent criminals, these reforms acknowledge that for those criminals we do release into the community, we need more options for managing their behaviour.

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Locking Down Crime

This article originally appeared in the Daily Telegraph on 28 April 2017.

Community safety is the highest priority of the criminal justice system and the NSW government can be proud of the latest batch of crime statistics.

Robbery and theft have declined 13 per cent from the last quarter of 2016.Other serious crimes such as murder and assault are stable. This stands in stark contrast to Victoria where serious crime is skyrocketing, up 20 percent over the past two years.

When it comes to reducing crime in Australia, NSW is leading the way. Building on this success, the government now has the opportunity to launch a wide-ranging criminal justice reform program.

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