I was unable to attend the Meet the Candidates forum …

Comment on Mandatory sentencing or not, that is the question by Russell Goldflam.

I was unable to attend the Meet the Candidates forum because of a prior work commitment, so thank you Alice Springs News for providing such a detailed report.
There is an inaccuracy in your story: You say, “Mandatory sentencing does continue under the Labor Government, most notably for murder which attracts a minimum 20 year sentence (reduced from mandatory life in 2005).” In fact, murder attracts a mandatory minimum life sentence, with a mandatory minimum 20 year non-parole period (or in some “aggravated” cases, 25 years).
As to the debate about whether the Country Liberals’ latest policy announcement regarding a minimum three months sentence for assaults against a person working in a public setting amounts to “mandatory sentencing” or not, make no mistake: it does.
It is a different policy, targeting a different type of offending, from the mandatory sentencing laws passed by the CLP in 1997. But if enacted, it would, like its discredited predecessor, inevitably lead to serious injustice, without achieving any benefits. Whether you call such laws “mandatory sentencing”, “minimum sentencing” or “compulsory imprisonment”, their effect is similarly obnoxious: Courts are prevented from doing their job, which is to exercise judicial discretion; and some minor offenders end up being unfairly imprisoned.
The Criminal Lawyers Association of the Northern Territory is opposed in principle to mandatory sentencing, whether it be Labor’s current mandatory life sentencing of murderers, the mandatory imprisonment of all property offenders under the former CLP government, or the Country Liberals’ current proposal to compulsorily imprison a broad range of violent offenders.
We already have the toughest sentencing laws in the nation. We also have the highest rate of recidivism (re-offending) in the nation. The more people we send to prison, the more repeat offenders we will produce. In these circumstances, passing laws which needlessly and unfairly send minor offenders to prison will in all likelihood result in not a reduction, but an increase in crime.

Recent Comments by Russell Goldflam

Pine Gap and the Nobel prize the Oz government ignores
For the record, when Hitler was elected in 1933, my grandfather, a Jew who had migrated from his native Poland to Germany in the 1920s to make a better life for himself and his young family, immediately saw the writing on the wall.
He packed up, leaving behind the good little business he had built up, and moved to Palestine.
Life in Palestine was exceptionally hard. My Yiddishe grandmother had a job breaking rocks in a road gang. When a chance came to go to a land where there really was milk and honey, they grabbed it. They arrived in Fremantle in 1937.
I’m glad my article has stirred so much discussion, but I’d prefer, for all our readers, that it was conducted, as Alex Nelson asks, without any nastiness or name-calling.


Michele Castagna, 1944 – 2016
Vale, Michele, one of our community’s shiniest, gutsiest, loveliest lights.


The spin on crime statistics
The NT should follow the lead of NSW, where the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR), led by respected criminologist Dr Don Weatherburn, provides a credible and impressive service to the community: http://www.bocsar.nsw.gov.au/
Both BOCSAR and the NT Criminal Justice Research and Statistics Unit are based in their respective Departments of Justice, but unlike BOCSAR, it appears that the NT Unit has never been provided with the resources, or the independence, to establish the credibility that its NSW counterpart has.
The latest figures (thanks for the link, Physics Bill!) are disturbing for at least two reasons.
Firstly, they are in stark and unexplained contrast to the repeated media statements in 2015 that there has been a dramatic reduction in violent crime in Alice Springs.
Secondly (thanks again, Physics Bill!), they remind us of the appalling levels of violence in our community.
Our rates of property offending per capita are broadly on a par with those in the USA, but our violent offending rates are many times higher.
It’s good that the Alice Springs News is blowing the whistle on the lack of transparency in crime statistics, but your article gives the impression that property offending is the main game in the fight against crime.
Whether or not that dominates local Facebook pages, it’s certainly not the main game, which is violence, and in particular of course, domestic and family violence.
Russell Goldflam
President, Criminal Lawyers Association of the Northern Territory
White Ribbon Ambassador


What the Rock handback bash wasn’t told
Thank you David for your pointed analysis and fascinating first-hand account of pre-Yulara Uluru.
And thank you, Alice Springs News Online, for publishing David’s story.


The fertile space between us
I too was away and unable to attend this presentation, but grateful to have the opportunity to read it here online, and to reflect on your lucid, poignant and uplifting observations, Kieran. What a fitting way to cap off your year as the LOFTY recipient!


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