Unjust mandatory sentencing laws jailing vulnerable and marginalised

17th Aug 2012

“The jailing of an impoverished Indonesian fisherman in South Australia last Thursday, in what the trial judge labelled as the 'lowest level of involvement' for a people smuggling crime, is highlighting unjust Australian laws that discriminatorily incarcerate people,” Australian Lawyers Alliance National President, Tony Kerin, said today.

“Judge Gordon Barrett added to previous judicial concerns about mandatory sentencing laws that hamstring judges in providing appropriate sentences,” Mr Kerin said.

Mr Kerin was referring to the case of Zainudin Zainudin, who was found guilty of aggravated people smuggling last week, while his co-accused was acquitted.

A third man, who recruited the two men, jumped ship when the boat reached the end of Indonesian territorial waters and was taken back to land by a boat trailing behind.

Mr Zainudin was given a three year sentence for crewing what the judge was satisfied the Indonesian believed to be a fishing boat that would return to Indonesian waters.

“Judge Barrett was impelled under law to set a mandatory five-year term with a minimum non-parole period of three years and expressed his view about being required to impose mandatory and disproportionate sentences,” Mr Kerin said.

The Judge referred to WA Chief Justice Wayne Martin’s comments on such penalties and the wider implications this had to the cost of administering justice in Australia.

“Mandatory sentencing is supposed to be used as a deterrent, but how can that be with poor, uneducated fishermen, desperate to put food on the table and who at best are categorised as low level offenders, being the ones put behind bars. Nothing good comes of such laws,” Mr Kerin said.

“The poor, marginalised and vulnerable such as asylum seekers, are always going to be most at risk with such laws. In people smuggling cases, the masterminds will have often already jumped ship,” he said.

Tags: Asylum seekers and refugees People smuggling Access to justice mandatory sentencing