Bendigo community lawyers fear 'scaremongering' could accompany Liberals' law and order focus

A funding commitment to relocate the Bendigo Law Courts could be an election priority for Bendigo this year, but some are concerned about 'scaremongering' over law and order.
A funding commitment to relocate the Bendigo Law Courts could be an election priority for Bendigo this year, but some are concerned about 'scaremongering' over law and order.

BENDIGO community lawyers are concerned the Liberal Party’s pledge to focus on law and order in the upcoming election campaign could lead to “scaremongering”, while genuine crime prevention measures are overlooked.

The Liberals have identified a law and order candidate for Bendigo East, with preselection open until March.

Their local branch president told the Bendigo Advertiser they were keen to focus on crime policy in an attempt to unseat sitting Labor MP Jacinta Allan.

Loddon Campaspe Community Legal Centre legal practice manager Clare Sauro hoped it would be an opportunity to discuss the needs of disadvantaged people in Bendigo, rather than to provoke fear in the community.

“Having a law and order conversation is something we would welcome. But we need to make sure the conversation isn’t just about punitive measures and doesn’t end in scare mongering,” she said.

ARC Justice executive officer Hayley Mansfield and LCCLC legal practice manager Clare Sauro.

ARC Justice executive officer Hayley Mansfield and LCCLC legal practice manager Clare Sauro.

“We need to look at what causes people to commit crimes.

“It would be concerning if new MPs are decided upon from a law and order focus rather than a wider understanding of the reasons for offending.”

They are calling for funding certainty to improve access to child protection programs.

Arc Justice executive officer Hayley Mansfield said improving child protection would help to keep young people from committing crimes and entering the criminal justice system.

“We’d like to see funding for child protection programs, because we know there is a clear link between people who have been through the system as it is, and then entering the justice system,” she said.

“We’ve seen ‘law and order’ election campaigns similar to this in the past, but there seems to be an even stronger focus this election.

President of the Liberal Party branch of Bendigo Carolynne Fawcett said law and order was likely to be a main issue in this year's election campaign.

President of the Liberal Party branch of Bendigo Carolynne Fawcett said law and order was likely to be a main issue in this year's election campaign.

“Politicians have a responsibility to ensure the public is not mislead.”

LCCLC is also supportive of a developing plan to move the Bendigo Law Courts to a purpose-built site at Bendigo TAFE’s McCrae Street campus – a project that will require a significant state government funding contribution.

But Ms Mansfield said it needed to be concurrent with other funding needs in the community legal sector.

“There’s no use having a court new court building unless people can access the legal support they need,” she said.

Last week, Liberal Party Bendigo branch president Carolynne Fawcett said the electorate was “scared” and were looking for a local MP that understood law and order issues.

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