'Cliched and discredited': Coalition tough on crime approach faces criticism

A LOCAL lawyer and human rights campaigners say the Coalition’s “tough on crime” focus ahead of next year’s state election is misguided, and more emphasis should be placed on crime prevention and rehabilitation.

Victorian Liberal leader Matthew Guy last week released a plan to “tackle violent re-offending” with a minimum six-year sentence for those who commit a second violent offence.

The proposal applies to 11 crimes including murder, rape, carjacking and aggravated burglary.

Loddon Campaspe Community Legal Centre practice manager Clare Sauro said there were a range of other options that had been proven to reduce offending.

“We are disappointed to see a major political party gearing up for the 2018 state election by resorting to clichéd and discredited ‘tough on crime’ statements,” she said.

“We urge all political parties to think smarter about dealing with crime, to shift the focus from punishment to evidence-based approaches that actually reduce offending, for example therapeutic and restorative justice practices.”

The Coalition’s announcement also promised stronger penalties for perpetrators of domestic violence. Last week, a mother was critical of a fine handed down in the Bendigo Magistrates’ Court to her ex-partner, who had physically assaulted their children.

Mr Guy said repeat domestic violence offenders would “go away for a long time”. He also promised to “make Victoria safe again”.

“To stop this crime wave we need mandatory sentencing and mandatory jail times, that’s what I will introduce,” he said.

“Victorians have had enough of the Andrews government going soft on crime, it’s time for a new approach, a tough approach.”

Executive director of the Human Rights Law Centre Hugh de Kretser said the previous Coalition government introduced mandatory minimum sentences for gross violence, tightened bail laws and restricted parole – but crime rates continued to rise.

He said prisoner numbers in Victoria rose almost 40 per cent from 2011 to 2016, while government spending on prisons continued to increase.