Ted’s the new sheriff in town


Victoria’s new Premier Ted Baillieu has promised to hit the ground running with a raft of new law and order legislation pre-Christmas.

He plans to abolish suspended sentences and home detention.   Let’s hope he doesn’t rush these very important and sensitive issues in his haste to make good on election promises. Law and order is a delicate balance. Putting weight on one side of the scale can tip the other end disastrously.

Suspended sentences are a good case in point. Victorian judges still have the capacity to give offenders good behaviour bonds, even if suspended sentences are abolished. Under a bond, the offender agrees to be well-behaved for a set period of time. If they break their bond, the judge will send them to jail. If they don’t break their bond, an offender gets a clean sheet, no conviction recorded. So getting rid of suspended sentences in an effort to look tough may in fact have the reverse effect. Judges will maintain their independence by hook or by crook.

Suspended sentences have also been a useful tool for prosecutors seeking to cut deals with defendants facing minor charges. Pleading guilty in return for a conditional freedom makes sense to many villains. Without this option, many defendants will roll the dice on going to trial which will cost the community a fortune in court time. The court calendar is already clogged. This move will make the process grind even slower. For victims, the old saying: ‘justice delayed is justice denied’ is apt here.     

Moreover, judges don’t like being told what to do by governments, particularly when candidates make promises to win elections which are simply popularity contests. Judges should never be concerned about their popularity; the Supreme Court is not Australian Idol.

Justice is about maintaining universal principles of fairness, not responding to the whim of the mob. No matter how the media spin their fear campaigns, revenge has no place in the process.

Premier Ted has so far been quiet on his promise back in March to ban the bikies by using the anti-association laws that SA Premier Mike Rann unleashed last year. Again, Rann didn’t think things through carefully enough and the draconian laws were knocked over at the Supreme Court and then on appeal in the High Court. It cost the taxpayers $10 million for no result. Let’s hope Ted doesn’t bow to sections of the media and the Victorian Police Association who are using the bikers as a Trojan horse to attack Chief Commissioner Simon Overland for entirely different reasons.

Preventing association between citizens is a foolish, headlong leap down the road of totalitarianism. In South Australia, it actually galvanised the bikers.  Freedom of association is a basic right that our grandfathers fought the Nazis and the other Axis powers to uphold. It would be shameful to waste that sacrifice so a few pollies can win re-election. It makes me nauseous to think about it.

The ultimate solution is to enact a national Bill of Rights to protect such freedoms from the caprice of party politics. Until we have a Bill of Rights, the principle of the separation of powers under the Australian constitution protects us. The Executive cannot usurp the Judiciary. This is the hammer that smashed Rann’s ludicrous attempt to ban the bikers using secret evidence and arbitrary declarations by the Attorney General. Let’s hope Ted has read the High Court’s decision or he’s got a rude shock coming.

8 thoughts on “Ted’s the new sheriff in town

  1. I have said it before and I will say it again,
    It is past time politicians stopped this “get tough” on crime and started “Getting Smart” on crime.
    Unfortunatly this rush to populisum by Ted Baillieu, if followed through on can only lead to a hightend alianation of the marginallized within our community.
    Our lawmakers need to look at the countrys of this world that have low recidivisum rates and see what can be adapted from their systems to fit the Australian way of life.
    We have one of the highest recidivist rates in the world, from personl experiance I can tell you that hard jail only produces hard criminals.
    I describe the Dutch system (that I was a guest of) as operating with Carrot, Carrot, Carrot, Bloody Big Stick. The result of this is a system that has a recidivist rate opposite of ours. We are one of the highest reoffending countries in the world they are one of the lowest.
    The longer we keep making the same mistakes the longer we continue to get the same hardened criminal revolving door. It has to end for the prosperity of the nation.

  2. When suspended sentences are offered, the Court is really giving the offender the opportunity to demonstrate that he or she has a potential to disengage from crime.The overarching premise of suspended sentences then is to offer offenders the opportunity to engage in structured psycholgical intervention as directed through the Court. It gives men and women the forum to identify the underlying causes of their offending behaviour. There ain’t enough jail space to ‘lock ’em up and throw away the key’. 98% of offenders are released back into the community. If they can contemporaneously stay within their families, maintain employment and retain their homes, their chances of recidivisim is lessened. Our community gains. Sandy (Forensic Psychologist)

  3. Thanks Sandy,
    That’s what people seem to forget, these villains have to emerge from jail sometime. We spend too much time and energy on hating offenders rather than considering how we can lessen the crime rate. The underlying premise of your comment is entirely missed by people who seem to mistakenly believe that the justice system is about revenge. It’s not, despite the focus on the plight of victims which have rightly been in the spotlight in recent years. Now have you subscribed to this scandalous space or is this a fleeting visit??

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