Queensland Courts Fail To Impose Adequate Penalties
'Courts Blasted For Going Soft On Offenders' The Courier-Mail 4/1/2006

477people convicted for serious offences — 310 jailed
62people convicted for rape— 53 jailed
157people convicted for armed robbery — 92 jailed

Queensland courts have been attacked as out of touch with community attitudes to crime after repeatedly failing to give serious violent offenders maximum jail terms.

Not one of 477 people convicted of rape, attempted rape, robbery or serious assault in major courts last financial year was given the maximum sentence.

Only 310 were sent to jail, with 24 given wholly-suspended sentences and 143 receiving intensive correction orders — sentences served in the community.

The figures relating to decisions by higher courts in Brisbane, Townsville, Rockhampton and Cairns for 2004-2005 were released by Attorney-General Linda Lavarch in a written answer to a question in Parliament.

State-wide statistics, which have only been collated since March last year, showed the same result, with no maximum sentences for 288 offenders in the same categories.

In major centres, 62 people were convicted of rape, with 53 receiving some time in jail. One rapist received a wholly-suspended prison sentence, and eight others were given intensive correction orders.

The courts also recorded 157 convictions for armed robbery, with only 92 people facing jail time.

Queensland Police Union president Gary Wilkinson blasted the judiciary as

"chardonnay-sipping lawyers who don't understand the system and have more sympathy for the offenders than they do with the victims".
"Police are often frustrated by decisions of the courts in Queensland because more often than not the judges and magistrates apply the softly-softly approach with violent offenders," he said. "It's about time that Queensland courts gave these offenders the sentences they deserve."

Ms Lavarch said there was "difficulty and complexity" involved in sentencing criminal offenders, with an individual set of factors to be considered in each case.

"Sentencing will always be a difficult balance when taking into account the punitive aspect, the victim's and society's concerns and the needs of the offender concerning rehabilitation and re-offending," she said.

Mr Wilkinson said most people involved in offences such as armed robberies were repeat criminals, and had little chance of rehabilitation.

He said most of those people were not first offenders and that the "argument (of rehabilitation) doesn't wash".

Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg said the figures showed the State Government was "soft on crime", and committed a future coalition government to an overhaul of Queensland's sentencing laws.

"To have 477 people convicted of crimes such as rape, attempted rape and armed robbery and to find that not a single one of those people received the maximum jail sentence speaks volumes about ... Labor's failure to protect our community," he said.

Ms Lavarch said the State Government shared community concerns about crime.

"I will continue, as did my predecessor, to receive advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions and if I am of the view that a particular sentence is manifestly inadequate I will exercise my right of appeal to have the appropriateness of that sentence tested before the Court of Appeal."

A spokesman for Ms Lavarch said the Attorney-General and her predecessor Rod Welford had appealed 16 sentencing decisions last year.