Lawyers, police at odds over sentencing policy

REACTION has been mixed to a Liberal Party plan to phase out suspended sentences, with police and victims welcoming the commitment but lawyers rejecting it.

The Liberals have promised to abolish suspended sentences within their first term of government.

Attorney-General Brian Wightman said that apart from the Liberals blurring the separation of powers between courts and politics, he wanted to know where the money would come from to put more people in jail.

"This policy is not even backed by evidence," Mr Wightman said.

"The Tasmanian Law Reform Institute has already found that suspended sentences are not overused and should not be removed."

He said people who received suspended jail terms in Tasmania were less likely to reoffend.

Australian Lawyers Alliance spokesman and Hobart barrister Greg Barns said the Liberal plan was bad, as suspended sentences were a useful tool, particularly when made conditional on a defendant completing rehabilitation.

He said the banning of suspended sentences in Victoria had been disastrous, particularly with young offenders going to jail and forming antisocial networks, leading to increased recidivism.

He said the Liberals had not talked to the chief justice or chief magistrate and crime rates were dropping in Tasmania.

But Police Association of Tasmania president Pat Allen said police welcomed the move, as they were frustrated that convicted offenders could avoid jail.

"As long as there are viable alternatives available, we do not see it as a problem," he said.

Beyond Abuse spokesman Steve Fisher said sexual assault victims welcomed the plan, as it avoided "second abuse" from the court system.

Mr Fisher said that if a victim went through the trauma of a court case to have an offender convicted but the person was not jailed, "they feel further abused by the process".


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