Do the crime but not the time in lenient state
Criminals were handed significantly less jail time in Victoria compared with NSW across 15 key offences ranging from homicide to rape and robbery, with the courts backing some of the lowest penalties in the nation.
As debate rages over sentencing in Victoria, crime statistics confirm that judges are handing out significantly weaker penalties across a range of serious offences compared with NSW, South Australia and the Northern Territory.
Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that Victoria is the joint lowest incarcerator of serious criminals with offenders facing median jail terms of just 24 months compared with NSW at 36 months in 2015-16.
Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia are at the bottom of the jailing ladder, while NSW, South Australia (33-month median terms) and the Northern Territory (27 months) have the toughest sentencing.
Analysis of terrorism offences, which are not included in the ABS data, points to NSW handing out the highest penalties for that crime as well.
The ABS figures show that for homicide offences, the median penalty in NSW is six months higher than Victoria, six months higher for sexual assaults and two years higher for robbery and extortion.
The ABS figures will add fuel to the debate about sentencing in Victoria, which flared this week when it was revealed former Victorian chief justice Marilyn Warren demanded the state’s top prosecutor try to suspend a sentencing appeal to the High Court.
The High Court ruled this week that a 3½-year sentence handed to a man who sexually abused his partner’s 13-year-old daughter was “manifestly inadequate”.
The ABS covered a range of offences when analysing the length of custodial sentences being handed out by the judiciary across Australia last financial year.
The numbers will add to the debate about the way crime is managed in some states, with state elections looming and voter disquiet about perceptions that courts are soft on crime.
Opposition legal affairs spokesman John Pesutto said the figures confirmed the views of critics of the government’s sentencing framework. “This data reinforces just what everybody already knows about soft sentencing by Victorian courts for violent crimes and sexual offending,’’ Mr Pesutto said.
Victorian Attorney-General Martin Pakula said the government recently passed standard sentencing legislation to increase sentences for 12 of the most serious crimes, including murder, rape and sexual offences involving children.
The legislation would replace current sentencing practice with a higher standard sentence.
“We’ve created new laws for carjacking and home invasion, we’ve restricted the courts from using community correction orders for serious offences, and we’ve made it harder than ever to get bail in Victoria,” he said.
“I welcome the decision from the High Court this week which gives Victorian courts greater freedom to impose sentences that reflect the gravity of offending.”
The ABS statistics did not cover terrorism, but analysis of dozens of terror cases shows that NSW also has a trend towards tougher penalties, although experts warn about comparing cross-border cases, where evidence and circumstances differ.
There were 35 people charged and 23 convicted of terrorism offences under the Criminal Code between 2000 and 2013.
The Pendennis cell members in NSW received penalties of between 23 years and 28 years for their offending.
The highest-profile Victorian terrorist — Abdul Nacer Benbrika — received 15 years’ jail in 2009 for failing to renounce violent jihad after facing a maximum 25 years for directing the terrorist group that had discussed attacking key Australian targets.