Two inspiring court-related incidents in Victoria, although both start with something depressing.
The first is the news that at least one Magistrate is prepared to speak out against the ridiculous situation in which we charge teens with child pornography offences for “sexting” and then put them on a sex offenders’ register regardless of the fact that THEY ARE CHILDREN TOO.
He presided over the case of the country youth, then aged 18, who was sent four uninvited text message pictures of girls, aged between 15 and 17 years, topless or in their underwear. Police found the pictures on his mobile phone and laptop and charged him with child pornography offences.
On legal advice the youth pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a one-year good behaviour bond without conviction. The magistrate refused the prosecutor’s application for the young man to be placed on the sex offender register but police later realised his guilty plea resulted in mandatory registration for eight years. Magistrates have discretion for those aged under 18, but none for adults.
”These people shouldn’t be regarded as sex offenders. It’s going beyond the pale in relation to the imposition of long-term penalties which are not judicial penalties, they’re not fines or community-based orders or even sex offender treatment programs. This is a limitation on what a person can and can’t do for the next eight years of their life, for God’s sake,” the magistrate said.
Of course, the relevant Liberal minister just refused to comment. But at least pressure is building for a common-sense reform – even if it might have to wait till the Baillieu government is kicked out.
Which leads me to state Attorney-General Robert Clark’s utterly moronic failure to understand just how much of a problem it is for his plan to lock up children for a minimum two years regardless of circumstances that the Appeals Court has just clarified, again, that, under the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005, general deterrence is NOT a relevant factor for sentencing child offenders:
He said the judgment made clear that ”protecting the community from further violent acts by the offender and deterring the offender from re-offending are appropriate criteria in sentencing juvenile offenders”.
”The government sees no inconsistency between the CYF Act and its statutory minimum sentence initiative.”
Except for all the general deterrence rhetoric with which you were justifying it, eh Robert? So now you’re going to pretend that specific deterrence and protection of the community will justify mandatory two-year jail sentences for any child who recklessly causes a serious injury regardless of prior criminal history or any other factors relevant to their specific circumstances?
Honestly, the legal system in this state is being presided over by a vandal who doesn’t know or care what he’s wrecking, or what the unfortunate long-term consequences will be.
Then again, the worse he makes it, the more lives he wrecks, the more crime will rise and the more Hun readers will think they need his “tough on crime” medicine. Despite it actually making the problem worse.
Good news for us lawyers, though, I suppose. There’ll be plenty of work. And in the meantime, at least the Court of Appeal is prepared to stand up for reason.