MEMBERS of Ballarat’s legal fraternity are split over state government plans to scrap suspended sentences.
Some say the decision to get rid of the popular sentencing option is a “great shame”, while others support the move.
Ballarat solicitor Diane Haddon told The Courier community safety was paramount and that suspended sentences had lost their place when it came to the modern criminal.
“They did serve a purpose some years ago, but with the re-offending like it is nowadays ... they (criminals) just don’t learn,” she said.
“Given the standard of the crimes committed – and it was never like this in the past – suspended sentences have little effect.”
Announcing the second stage of plans to abolish suspended sentences, Attorney-General Robert Clark yesterday said it was part of a state government commitment to make sure serious offenders did not walk free.
“Labor’s soft on crime approach has allowed offenders sentenced on paper to a term of imprisonment to walk out of court completely free and back into the community, too often returning straight to re-offending,” he said.
He said by September next year all suspended sentences, including those in the Magistrates Court jurisdiction, would be abolished.
Ballarat solicitor Jon Irwin said the announcement was a “travesty”.
“There are always going to be circumstances whereby a suspended sentence is warranted,” Mr Irwin said.
“To completely abolish them just does not make sense.”
Mr Irwin took aim at the state government, saying its “tough on crime” approach often was not thought through. “The community will like this, in that they see suspended sentences as a slap on the wrist,” he said.
“But in the long run, it is a sentencing option that is required.”
As of yesterday, an offender who commits a crime serious enough to be heard in the County Court or Supreme Court is no longer eligible for a suspended sentence.