Beyond Abuse support for minimum mandatory sentencing legislation

Acting Attorney-General Matthew Groom.
Acting Attorney-General Matthew Groom.

An advocacy group for survivors of child abuse has placed its support behind the government’s plan to introduce mandatory minimum sentences for sexual offences against children. 

In a letter to the Legislative Council from Beyond Abuse, the group called for members to support the bill, which is expected to be debated in the upper house this week.

Concerns were previously raised that introducing mandatory jail time for offenders would deter victims from coming forward if the perpetrator was a family member or close friend.

But the letter said that following discussions with survivors, it believed the changes would have the opposite effect.

“The primary purpose of the proposed bill should be considered by those debating it as a measure to prevent crimes of a sexual nature from happening in the first place, by serving as a deterrent to perpetrators,” the letter said. 

On Monday, Acting Attorney-General Matthew Groom called on Labor to support the government’s legislation, but Opposition Deputy Leader Michelle O’Byrne said mandatory sentencing might not deter the behaviours. 

“Labor doesn’t believe in mandatory sentencing because none of the research in criminology and behaviours shows that mandatory sentencing makes a difference,” Ms O’Byrne said. 

“Let’s have a genuine conversation around what does change behaviours and what does protect people.” 

Mr Groom said the legislation was in line with community concern.

“We’re talking about significant offences here, we’re talking about offences like rape of a young person under the age of 17, or maintaining a sexual relationship with aggravation,” he said.