Proposed SA sentencing laws for sex offences will result in injustice

24th Jan 2024

The South Australian government’s draconian new laws on sentencing for sex offences, developed without consultation with the legal community, will result in injustice, says the Australian Lawyers Alliance.

“These new laws will result in injustice and are a dangerous breach of the separation of powers by interfering with judicial discretion.  Importantly there is no evidence to suggest such laws will reduce offending,” said Mr Greg Barns SC, national criminal justice spokesperson, Australian Lawyers Alliance.

“The proposed new laws fail to consider the unique factors in each case.  They might, for example, mean that young people are locked up for life.  They might mean that a court dealing with an offender who has committed offences many years ago but who is now fully rehabilitated will not be able to take that into account.

“The laws represent a dangerous attack on the separation of powers.  In our system of democracy, it is the courts that adjudicate cases and determine and impose appropriate sentences.  

“Restricting the discretion of the courts, particularly in such an extreme way, undermines the rule of law and the integrity of the legal system.”

The Australian Lawyers Alliance anticipates that the laws will mean that there are more pleas of not guilty and victims will be subjected to the trauma of a trial. There are also likely to be legal challenges if the legislation is introduced.

“There is no evidence that such draconian laws will reduce offending.  All around the world, governments’ so called ‘tough on crime’ sentencing initiatives have been shown to have zero impact as a deterrent,” said Mr Barns SC.

“Electronic monitoring and detention for life are expensive. Evidence shows that offending reduces as people age.  What is the point of electronic monitoring of an infirm 80-year-old?”

Tags: South Australia Criminal justice courts