Friday, January 29, 2010

Amazing "justice" in Australia

One in eight convicted rapists spend no time in jail

ONE IN EIGHT convicted rapists have walked free from Queensland courts without spending a single night in jail for their crimes. Figures obtained by the State Opposition reveal that 21 men convicted of rape and a further five convicted of attempted rape in 2008-09 were not given a custodial sentence.

Deputy Liberal National Party Leader – and LNP justice spokesman – Lawrence Springborg urged the Bligh Government to back mandatory jail terms for rapists. "Rape is rape no matter what the circumstances," Mr Springborg said. "It can never be justified and must be punished by jail."

The Government's own figures showed that one in eight rapists (21 of 161) convicted in court walked free in the past 18 months and about one in six (5 of 28) for attempted rape. The release of similar figures in 2008 set off a storm when then Attorney-General Kerry Shine said some rapes only had a "minor effect" on women. Premier Anna Bligh slammed him, labelling his comments "insensitive". Mr Shine was forced to apologise, saying he did not mean to offend. Four months later he was out of Cabinet.

Mr Springborg said the Government should amend the Penalties and Sentences Act to ensure judges impose a jail sentence on convicted rapists. "That's not extreme and it's not controversial," he said. "It's . . . justice. Different sides of politics often debate whether a jail sentence is too weak . . . There should be no debate when it comes to the basic question of should a convicted rapist spend time in jail. "Bligh and Labor try to duck this issue by saying the courts are responsible for handing down the sentences. They are. "But it is the Government that is responsible for writing the sentencing laws. And, if those sentencing laws stipulate that a convicted rapist must serve time in jail, then the courts will have to comply. The ball is in Ms Bligh's court."

The maximum rape penalty is 25 years, but the average jail time is four to six years.

Figures obtained by the Opposition also showed that – of 468 offenders convicted for armed robbery in 2008-09 – 131 did not spend a night in jail or more than one-in-four. Of 323 convicted for serious assault, 103 escaped prison time – almost one-in-three.

The Acting Premier and Attorney-General Paul Lucas said judges, not politicians, were in the best position to determine sentences. "Judicial independence is a cornerstone of our democracy and mandatory sentencing regimes undermine this system," he said. "Not only has the Government increased penalties for a number of offences but we have introduced new offences, such as serious assault, to reflect community concerns about offending behaviours. "It is clear that increased penalties have resulted in more people being jailed, as evidenced by our rising prison population at a time when the offending rate in the community is relatively stable."

Original report here. (Via Australian Politics)

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