THE president of the Bendigo Law Association hopes politicians do not seek to stoke bigotry, marginalisation and “baseless attacks on the judiciary” during the 2018 state election campaign.
A recent report from the Productivity Commission found Victorians were the most fearful people in Australia based on their concerns about crime.
Victorians are scheduled to go to the polls on November 24.
During his speech at the opening of the legal year in Bendigo, BLA president Tom Wolff said the city had seen the results of bigotry in recent years.
“The state of Victoria has overtaken our neighbours to the west and to the north, as now the most fearful state in the Commonwealth,” he said.
“My hope as we start coming into the year, particularly it being an election year, is that this emotion of fear will be prevented from becoming conflated with behaviours of bigotry, marginalisation, baseless attacks on the judiciary, which serve only to undermine the rule of law.
“In recent years, we’ve become all too aware of the damage that fear-driven campaigns of bigotry can have on the community here in Bendigo.”
The Liberal National Coalition has already framed law and order as one its main points of attack against the Andrews Labor government, vowing to reintroduce mandatory sentencing for violent crime.
The policy has been cricitised by members of the legal community as “unworkable”.
In Bendigo, the courts have experienced a “significant and unprecedented growth” in criminal trials and appeals in the last three years, according to James Mighell SC speaking on behalf of the Victorian Bar.
“There’s been similar growth in the magistrate’s court,” he said.
Last year, Bendigo criminal lawyer Luke Docherty criticised “tough on crime” approaches as having unforeseen consequences for the administration of justice.
He said it would place further strain on an under-pressure legal system by discouraging guilty pleas and reducing access to rehabilitation programs in prison.