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Labor to give juries a say in sentencing
ABCUpdated February 4, 2013, 10:31 am
The State Opposition will allow juries to recommend sentences for serious crimes, if it wins the 2014 election.
Opposition leader Daniel Andrews says the proposal would be trialled for a year in the County and Supreme Courts and would only apply to indictable offences.
He says jurors would help ensure that sentencing meets community expectations.
“It’s a recommendation. It’s not binding,” he said.
“The ultimate decision remains with the judge but if the judge was to vary the sentence and [it was] not in line with the jury, the judge would have to explain why that’s the case.
“We think this is a balanced, fair and common sense idea.”
Attorney General Robert Clark says the New South Wales law reform commission rejected a similar proposal in 2007.
“This is a half-baked proposal by Labor. It will simply bring the law system to a grinding halt,” he said.
Mr Clark has defended the Baillieu Government’s record on law and order, saying the coalition had already abolished suspended sentences for serious crimes, implemented four-year statutory minimum terms for gross violence offences and axed home detention.
The new federal Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus, says he supports the plan saying juries have a valuable contribution to make.
“I think it’s a very useful idea. I think we underestimate the worth of juries,” he said.
“Juries represent people. They bring the law in touch with community views. I think that is important and I’ve always resisted attempts to reduce the role of juries.”
The president of Liberty Victoria, Jane Dixon, says any changes to the legal system would need extensive community consultation.
“There’s some logic to what they’re suggesting but it’s just not as simple as it sounds,” she said.
“You would expect for a such a radical change they would need to have a widespread consultation process.”