The lawyer defending James Gargasoulas, the man accused of running people down in Bourke Street, will be in Ballarat this week in a bid to help people better understand the justice system.
Theo Alexander will focus on how the justice system treats people who are mentally ill as part of a larger forum to help explain exactly how sentencing works and its challenges.
Victorian Law Foundation is aiming to change how, too often, people respond to stories about court cases in a knee-jerk, emotionally-driven way.
Sentences are too harsh or too lenient, people decry, sometimes without reading the full story.
Coming to Ballarat on Tuesday, a free roadshow packed with discussions and fascinating presentations is part of the foundation's annual Law Week program.
Deakin University law school's deputy dean Marilyn McMahon said it was an important part of being a citizen in a democracy to understand how the justice system works - and this roadshow is an accessible way to learn.
"There's been such high-profile, controversial issues - Ristevksi, Gargasoulas' mental state in Bourke Street, the issue of when and if people should get parole, the matter of whether our courts are too lenient in sentencing - these are all matters that have really caused controversy in recent years," Professor McMahon said.
"We want experts to talk to people so they understand how the criminal justice system is dealing them."
Hosted at the Ballarat Town Hall, seminars will run from 1-7pm.
"Find out more about the parole board - terrible crimes are committed, but we need to see that in context, and many people don't know how it works," she said.
"Senior members of the parole board are coming out to speak about that very issue.
"We've got someone from the cold case unit, talking about the detailed, time consuming matters they pursue, and often they succeed in bringing someone to justice, so people should know more about that work and how valuable it is."
Ballarat senior criminal lawyer Scott Belcher said he supported the work of the forum in promoting community understanding, especially in the age of social media commentators screaming for "off with his head sentences".
"Social media trolls should take the time to visit their local court, and sit in on a few cases as their highly undesirable emergence has further exacerbated the already complicated task of sentencing," he said.
"Social media can be an unchecked scourge on society. It can promote hatred, contempt, fear, outrage, bullying, shaming, and the further isolation of socially disadvantaged, or vulnerable individuals, already suffering from significant family dysfunction, or childhood trauma, that is often masked with the use of alcohol and drugs."
Professor McMahon said people would be able to examine a real court case on the day, which will give them an insight into the justice process.
"It's really important to get out there so that when people have opinions, when they criticise the courts, they do so in an informed basis," she said.
"There are areas we can have real discussions, whether it was too lenient, but many times there's reasons why a court's imposed a particular sentence."
Mr Belcher said he had seen sentencing practices change as more people addicted to methamphetamine entered a justice system with limited state money - for example, the good behaviour bond has been in decline with the "over kill" use of the community corrections order.
"A good behaviour bond with teeth (special conditions) is not a soft option, instead it can be a very effective sentence geared towards promoting the individual's responsibility for punishment and rehabilitation," he said.
"Unlike the CCO, it costs the taxpayer very little to administer."
He added additional media coverage of important cases would also help with understanding - for example, recently a County Court judge's sentence was read live on television.
"Maybe the Chief Magistrate could consider the same type of media coverage for his courts on public interest cases, with the appropriate safeguards and protections," he said.
For more information on the Law Week activities, and to register for the seminars, visit the website.
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