Just when you thought Robert Clark’s ham-fisted mashing about all over the criminal justice system couldn’t get any more destructive, comes this morning’s Herald Sun front page. If you had any doubt at which cynically and deliberately misinformed target audience the “conservatives” are aiming their abysmal campaign:
Victorians asked to pass their own sentence on crime
People will be asked to pass their own sentence on violent thugs, murderers, rapists and vandals by the Baillieu Government.
If that sounds like an excellent idea – and there’s nothing wrong with comparing judicial attitudes to sentencing with those of the general public to determine if they’re compatible – that’s because you’re picturing something like the Sentencing Council’s previous efforts to determine what Victorians think about sentencing – those were about informing people of all the relevant information about a case, and then, armed with that information, determining what sentences they thought were appropriate. And they found that the general public is, if anything, actually less punitive than the real judges.
If they have all the facts at their disposal.
So, naturally, the Herald Sun and the Liberal Party are going to make sure that that’s not what happens here:
Together with the Herald Sun, the Government will survey tens of thousands of Victorians about what they believe are appropriate punishments for violent attacks as it imposes minimum terms for serious crimes.
The public’s verdict will be used to help set the baseline jail terms judges will be expected to impose on criminals under the Government’s get-tough sentencing reforms.
Ah, so the public’s participation is premised on the idea that it’ll be “tougher”.
Before completing this survey, will the public be advised of just how expensive imprisonment is? Of reoffending rates from various sentencing options? Of the availability of mental health and drug counselling services? Of research on effective deterrence? Will they be given examples to highlight the different sort of behaviour, at widely-divergent ends of the spectrum, that can be captured by the same offences? Will they be asked to consider those sentencing options in relation to defendants with real and genuine problems, ranging from mental health issues to long-term drug addiction?
Or will they simply be asked to decide if really bad things should happen to really bad people?
Based on the Herald Sun‘s previous form – and Robert Clark’s, for that matter – I have a horrible feeling it won’t be the former.
And, when the budget blows out with spending on new prisons, and when crime rates skyrocket from the efforts of graduates of our new bluestone colleges, I suppose they’ll demand we get even “tougher”. It’s not working! We must do it more!
See, this is the thing. No matter how incompetent and annoying Labor gets, the Liberals always manage to make it worse.
PS: An easy indication of whether a policy is a good idea or not is whether that Noel McNamara crank is in favour of it. He loves Robert Clark’s idea:
Crime Victims Support Association president Noel McNamara said the survey to be published in the Herald Sun in July would allow Victorians to have their voices heard.
“The community at large is outraged over the sentences that have been handed down from the bench over the last 12 years,” he told heraldsun.com.au this morning. “Criminals seem to have more rights than anyone else.”
“More rights than anyone else”? Like what?
I suppose, the more victims out there, the more point Mr McNamara’s association has for existing. No wonder he supports policies almost guaranteed to create more of them.
UPDATE: If you’re curious to try it yourself, and see how your views actually compare with real judges’, have a look at the Sentencing Advisory Council’s Virtual You Be The Judge.