No, that’s what sentences are for

So… British police are preventing courts from dealing with people because it’d be too much work to prosecute, and now, at the other extreme, the Victorian Corrections Minister wants to jail people after they’ve served their sentences.

TOUGH new laws introduced to the Victorian parliament will allow authorities to keep high-risk sex offenders in jail even after they have served their sentence.

Corrections Minister Bob Cameron said the new laws give courts the power to detain sex offenders for up to three years if they are deemed to present an unacceptable risk to the community.

If you wonder why I make such a big deal about the way the tabloid media misreport crime, this is why. Because we end up with politicians thinking that undoing the primacy of the courts in sentencing offenders, in weighing up the various factors – protection of the community, rehabilitation, deterrence, punishment – is somehow a good idea. That it’s somehow what the public actually wants.

400px-Supreme_Court_of_Victoria
This is the Supreme Court of Victoria. In it, people who commit serious crimes are sentenced by the Judges we appoint to do precisely that job, just as they have ever since our ancestors first realised it was a better system than mob lynchings.

Why would the public trust politicians and on-the-spot police justice to make these decisions instead of sentencing judges who have all the evidence in front of them?

Cameron’s proposal is an appalling idea. It springs from ignorance and spite, and cynical people pandering to (rather than correcting) that ignorance and spite. It won’t make anyone safer. Instead, it will result in injustice, and the waste of a good deal of public money fighting that injustice.

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12 responses to “No, that’s what sentences are for

  1. And yet people complain when ’10 year sentence’ ends up less. I wonder if the minimum penalty (no-parole) part was emphasised, and then the actual sentence given as a ‘if they’re not still safe to leave’ thing… would people complain less? I mean, isn’t the POINT of paroled-for-good-behaviour that dangerous people should still be in jail, at that point, and others not?
    I don’t know much about this at all, so correct away.

  2. I really don’t understand what’s happening with British traditions of justice and democracy, but it’s all becoming really scary.

    “[UK] Every phone call, text message, email and website visit will be stored for a year for monitoring by the state.”

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/lawandorder/6533107/Every-phone-call-email-and-internet-click-stored-by-state-spying-databases.html

    This on top of the almost-impossible-to avoid-nowadays CCTV coverage over so much of Britain.

    On the subject of keeping prisoners beyond their sentence: wouldn’t this make difficult to control or rehabilitate? If they think they’ll never get out what’s the point of good behaviour?

    I think ALP governments seem to always be at the forefront of this draconian type of legislation. I don’t understand why the various law societies don’t make some of kind of stand (although I guess they and the pollies mostly belong to the same clubs).

  3. “This on top of the almost-impossible-to avoid-nowadays CCTV coverage over so much of Britain.”

    Seriously, I just don’t have a problem with this, I have no expectation of privacy in a public space. Now if they were installing CCTV in peoples homes I would have a problem.

  4. As much as I agree with this, I have to take the devil’s advocate: say there’s a rapist who’s served a 20 year sentence. After being reviewed by a team of psychologists, he is found to be at an extremely high risk of re-offending. What’s the solution? My guess would be to put him in a high-security mental hospital, but in truth, what can do do with such people?

  5. Private tom – the answer is that the prisoner is released. People aren’t locked up based on risk….

  6. The Capitalism System: Nothing is a crime till you are caught.——–just ask them down there in Wall Street!

  7. Aussiesmurf – whereas what you said is true for people who have not committed serious crimes, it is not the case for those who have been convicted. They have already shown that they can commit such crimes. If they show no remorse, act proud of what they did, and show no indication of rehabilitation, leave them locked up. They should have thought about their victims rights before they did what they did. If on the other hand they actually feel remorse about what they did and want to correct their ways, then they should be given every chance to prosper. There have been numerous cases of people released only to kill, rape, assault and terrorise again. Don’t like having your risk to society assessed? Don’t do the crime in the first place.

  8. No, Cemil, the difference between those who commit serious crimes and those who don’t is that we lock the people who commit serious crimes up for long periods. That’s their punishment.

    You can’t lock people up once they’ve served their time just because of what you think they might do in the future.

  9. Is there an election coming up in Victoria? In NSW at every election there is a bidding war to see which party can promise to be the most hairy-chested on sentencing. Of course, it’s largely at the instigation of the Daily Telegraph.

  10. Isn’t the extended jailtime only available at the behest of judges?

  11. “You can’t lock people up once they’ve served their time just because of what you think they might do in the future.”

    Have you or a close family member ever been a victim of a seriously violent crime? My cousin has and now can’t walk – the bloke who did it is eligible for parole in 3 months. The attacker was sober, not affected by any drugs and committed a random attack that changed a persons life forever. Yet he will walk free. Although I don’t condone it, I well know where the feelings for vigilantism and mob justice comes from.

  12. “Yet he will walk free. “

    What’s your alternative?

    That an assault equals life in prison?

    In which case, how do we make our punishment for, say, rape or murder reflect that they’re even worse than an assault?

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