ALA welcomes end to mandatory sentencing for people smuggling crews
25th Aug 2012
The Australian Lawyers Alliance is welcoming yesterday’s announcement by the Gillard Government of an end to mandatory sentencing for those crewing people smuggling vessels, but says those wrongly sentenced, under such laws, should now have their situations addressed.
“Strong consideration must now be given to compensating those who suffered as a result of what numerous judges have been saying is an unjust sentencing system for quite some time,” Australian Lawyers Alliance National President, Tony Kerin, said.
“These people forced to endure the harsh mandatory sentencing provisions may well have suffered physical and psychological harm and it is their right to receive compensation for any damage caused,” he said.
“Many of them are poor Indonesian fishermen who have been duped into situations out of a need to support their families as a result of depleted fishing stocks resulting from recent economic disasters including the Montara Oil spill off the north coast of Western Australia.”
“It is a salutary reminder that parliament and government should take more heed of the words of the judiciary when it comes to sentencing rather than pandering to poorly informed populist community opinion,” Mr Kerin said.
He said a number of judges in the Northern Territory, Victoria, and South Australia had been expressing their frustration at the injustice of mandatory sentencing laws that forced sentencing low-level crimes with serious, disparate jail terms.
“We congratulate the government on this decision and hope that it leads to more sensible considerations in this area of law. Judges must be allowed to weigh up all the circumstances before determination. To do otherwise, is to risk physical and psychological harm to destitute people and increases the burden of compensation to right the wrong onto the backs of Australian taxpayers.”