Friday, November 8, 2013

The government's revolution of Victorian justice has made a bad situation worse.

The government's justice reform is starting to look like a revolution without a purpose, a case where the cure might be worse than the disease.


Before the November 2010 election, the Liberal opposition said Victoria's justice system had all but collapsed. ''No civilised society should tolerate being eaten from within by the cancer of sickening violence,'' said the normally under-stated Ted Baillieu. Victorians were ''sick of living in fear''. It was time to ''clean up our streets''.

Three years on, it seems that Victoria's justice system has indeed all but collapsed. The police, hard to dismiss as bleeding heart lefties, say ''enough's enough'' - their union says about 1500 police shifts a week are being used to supervise prisoners in police cells because of overcrowded jails.

The courts are revolting. Supreme Court Chief Justice Marilyn Warren has estimated that criminal cases going through the courts have increased by 25 per cent. Our prisons are overcrowded, prisons ''incidents'' are rising, and the rate at which we jail people is soaring.

Then it gets somewhat farcical. Corrections Victoria is failing to deliver accused people to court for the embarrassingly prosaic reason that there's not enough room in the court cells to hold them. So defendants don't turn up, a waste of time and money. Magistrate Michelle Erlich thundered recently that the impact of the crisis was now ''beyond my level of tolerance'' as yet another defendant failed to show.

Meanwhile Victoria Legal Aid, which funds the majority of criminal cases, early this year implemented the biggest cuts in its history to cope with the ''unprecedented demand'' for legal aid when there is nowhere near enough funding to cope with it. (Disclosure: my partner works for Legal Aid.)

And the result of all this? Victoria Police reported a 1.6 per cent increase in the crime rate last financial year.
It's quite an achievement really. The government set out to revolutionise a system that, while far from perfect, was working well most of the time and was often cited as an example by other states.

It is starting to look like a revolution without a purpose, a case where the cure might be worse than the disease. There are many reasons for it. Some pressures have been building for years. Others are new and in combination have pushed our system to breaking point.

The Sentencing Advisory Council recently released a report on prisons that offers some clues. Crime rates jump around but, overall, declined significantly in Victoria through the past decade - the police say by 12 per cent since 2003-4. But look closer and ''crimes against the person'' (such as assaults), offences against ''good order'' (often breaches of family violence intervention orders) and drug offences increased during that period.

Police report that the rise in crime last year is mostly due to family violence offences that are unlikely to have risen but are being rightly pursued more vigorously. For instance, before 2004 when police began a concerted effort to improve the way they dealt with family violence cases, they accounted for just 15 per cent of assaults. Now, it's close to 45 per cent.

But domestic violence doesn't fully explain what's happened. Our prison rate is increasing quickly. It was still the second lowest in the nation after the ACT last year, but it jumped by 40 per cent in the decade until 2012, and half of that has been in the past four years.

As the sentencing report notes, the leap from 2010-11 to 2011-12 happened when states such as NSW and Tasmania experienced falls in the numbers jailed. Indeed, NSW is trying to reduce the numbers in prison and boost the use of community-based sentences. A recent NSW Law Reform Commission report noted ''imprisonment does not seem to be any more effective at preventing reoffending than other community options''.

Victoria is going the other way. The government is part way through abolishing suspended sentences, where a court imposes a prison sentence, and then suspends it. The reform has considerable support - the public lost confidence in them because they were seen as too lenient. Even so, when fully abolished next year, it will put more pressure on our prisons.

The government pledged an extra 1700 police officers when it came to office, which will inevitably mean more people going through the justice system. Not all have been recruited and trained yet, so its full impact is still to be felt.

All that was going on, and then two things happened. There's been a huge increase in the number of people on remand, that is, refused bail. Remand prisoners now make up 20 per cent of all people in jail (and they are the people Corrections are failing to bring to court). Anecdotally, there's also been a dramatic drop in prisoners being granted parole following the case of Adrian Bayley, who was on parole (wrongly) when he raped and murdered Jill Meagher last year. And average sentences are increasing. Again, that's likely to be exacerbated when the government's mandatory sentence of four years for ''gross violence'' offences causing serious injury begins next year.

The government's response that a new prison is due to open in 2017 seems laughably inadequate.

Magistrates courts sitting on the weekends won't solve the problem either. The pre-election populism persists. ''If it's a choice between having dangerous prisoners on the streets or more prisoners behind bars, we will support having more prisoners behind bars,'' Attorney-General Robert Clark said. Well, yes. And?
It is time for the government to explain what all this has been for. What was the purpose of the revolution? What problem was it designed to fix? How much will it cost, and what cuts will be made to other programs to dramatically increase our prison rate? And in the end, will we be safer?

theage.com.au 8 Nov 2013

The so called 'crumbling' is a deliberate action and not a bad decision.

Australia's 'justice system' is a farce, as it is NOT about law, but about contractual obligation.

The policy is to arrest as many as possible for literally anything, so that they can be on the 'system' as criminals, as you will have an arrest history and there fore limited options.

People are getting arrested for not paying a bill or overdue invoice.
The police work for corporations and NOT the public as officers of peace.

This is how the 'justice system' operates in Australia.

Australia's courts are NOT courts of law, but places of business / commerce / trading, which have ABN's and are owned by foreign companies.
The COUNTY COURT OF VICTORIA  (ABN: 32 790 228 959) is a place of trade NOT law, which is owned by the LIBERTY GROUP, which has Rothschild's name  behind it.

There is a new brand of terrorism emerging (Legal Terrorism (c) corpau) , where the authorities are holding the general populous at ransom with falsely implemented 'laws', to which the corrupt lawyers / barrister and judges convict the masses.

Australia is STILL a prison isle.


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