STATUTES AMENDMENT (SENTENCING) BILL

Extracted from Hansard- House of Assembly 22 September 2020

I rise to support the Statutes Amendment (Sentencing) Bill 2020 introduced by the member for Bragg and Attorney-General. As the Attorney-General stated in the house, the bill amends both the Sentencing Act 2017 and the Criminal Procedure Act 1921 and resolves problems with the sentencing reduction scheme that currently operates in our state, which was developed, introduced and passed through the parliament by the former Labor government.

It was a former Labor government that introduced this scheme through the Criminal Law (Sentencing) (Guilty Pleas) Amendment Act 2012, which came into operation on 11 March 2013. It allowed an offender's sentence to be reduced if they entered a guilty plea before trial. The earlier the plea was entered, the greater the discount that could be applied to the sentencing.

The bill before us, the Statutes Amendment (Sentencing) Bill 2020, also incorporates recommendations made in the 2018-19 report by the Hon. Brian Martin AO, QC and seeks to remedy the current sentencing reduction scheme, as well as a number of other technical changes. I would like to put on the record today my community's concern with the arrangements that exist and that were implemented by the former Labor government.

Victims can feel devalued by the generous discount provisions attached to the current sentencing process. The significant reductions received by offenders, who have all too often committed heinous and serious crimes, are out of touch with community expectations. It is an expectation of the broader community, and those within my own electorate of Adelaide, that offenders should receive a punishment that is commensurate with their crime.

I see all too often, in my portfolio of child protection, young victims who have been traumatised and have had to spend the rest of their lives dealing with the trauma caused by those unconscionable offenders who have committed serious offences against them. The bill proposes amendments to section 40 of the Sentencing Act, which deals with major indictable offences and other offences finalised in the District Court and Supreme Court. Further, it introduces a two-tiered scheme, one for serious indictable offences and one for all other offences.

The bill proposes a serious indictable offence to include a serious offence of violence or a serious sexual offence. Serious indictable offences will include the offences of murder, manslaughter, causing death or serious harm by dangerous driving, rape, maintaining an unlawful sexual relationship with a child, unlawful sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault and offences relating to the production and dissemination of child exploitation material.

I am pleased that the maximum reduction that a court may apply for a guilty plea for serious indictable offences, serious sexual offences and serious offences of violence will now be reduced from the current maximum of up to 40 per cent to, now, 25 per cent maximum for a guilty plea entered within four weeks of the first court appearance. These reductions will similarly be reduced at each stage of the prosecution process. In effect, the longer the accused takes to enter a guilty plea, the less discount available to them.

For other major indictable offences, the maximum reductions available for guilty pleas are reduced to up to 35 per cent for a plea entered within four weeks of the first court appearance, again on a reducing scale the longer the accused takes to enter the guilty plea. Under the new arrangements, all sentencing courts must also have regard to additional factors when determining the appropriate reduction when a disputed facts hearing is not determined in favour of the defendant and if the court is satisfied that the offender intentionally concealed the commission of the crime or if the prosecution case is so strong or the offender has shown little remorse that a reduction of sentence would be inappropriate and may affect public confidence in the administration of justice.

The Marshall Liberal government is committed to sentencing reform that protects the community. The government has been working hard to overhaul the sentencing reduction scheme left by the former Labor government and has been consulting with the relevant stakeholders in the criminal justice system to get it right.

The Liberal government has not responded in a knee-jerk manner, like those opposite. It has consulted with the experts, with victims and the wider community to fix a problem that the Labor government introduced. The Liberal government's bill is superior and goes much further. The opposition's bill is silent on a number of additional recommendations made by Brian Martin AO, QC.

Labor has lowered the public debate to grubby attacks in my electorate of Adelaide and other Liberal-held electorates in an attempt to convince the general public of their inferior and limited argument. The Liberal government, on the other hand, has undertaken a full review and accounted for multiple recommendations. Our legislation will achieve better outcomes, not just political headlines. To maintain public confidence in the criminal justice system, it is important that the seriousness of a crime is reflected in the penalty, and that is what the Marshall Liberal government is doing.

I congratulate the Attorney-General for restoring public confidence by striking an appropriate balance between the efficient functioning of the criminal justice system and public confidence. The implementation of the recommendations outlined by the Attorney-General will ensure that sentencing reduction is now more closely aligned with community expectations. I commend this bill to the house.