Resumed from an earlier stage of the sitting. The Deputy Chair of Committees (Hon Martin Aldridge) in the chair; Hon Stephen Dawson (Minister for Environment) in charge of the bill.
Clause 1: Short title —
Committee was interrupted after the clause had been partly considered.
Clause put and passed.
Clauses 2 to 6 put and passed.
Clause 7: Section 34 amended —
Hon CHARLES SMITH :. I move —
Page 5, line 25 — To delete “life; or ” and substitute — “life, and must be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of no less than five years; or”
[speeches and comments of various members]
Hon ALISON XAMON: I rise to indicate that the Greens will not support this amendment, and that should not come as a surprise to anybody. As I have already stipulated, one of the reasons that the Greens were okay with contemplating the harsher penalties in the original bill was precisely because it simply extends a range of penalty options that would be available to the judiciary but would not bind the judiciary or remove judicial discretion by having any mandatory sentencing component. The Greens have been absolutely rock-solid on the issue of mandatory sentencing. Over multiple terms of Parliament, we have consistently spoken out against mandatory sentencing and the removal of judicial discretion, and that is not going to change today. If this amendment were to get up in this place, the Greens would reverse our position and would no longer be prepared to support the legislation that is in front of us today.
The Greens do not support mandatory sentencing overall for a variety of reasons, but primarily because it removes any sense of justice to individuals who are involved by not taking their circumstances into account. To be perfectly honest, the letter that was supplied to the government by Amanda Forrester, the Director of Public Prosecutions, and tabled earlier this evening, articulates well why there is no place for this amendment or for mandatory sentencing in this legislation. Because people reading Hansard may not necessarily have the opportunity to get a copy of the letter, I will just go through the key lines here. Amanda Forrester has identified — she is correct, in my opinion — that the introduction of mandatory sentencing is, firstly, an impediment to early resolution. She is right because over and again we have found that when mandatory sentencing is involved, people avoid putting in a plea of guilty because they would rather fight it. We are stretching our limited resources within our court systems because people are concerned that they are not going to get any sort of justice or hearing.
The second issue is that it results in a consequent increase in the number of criminal trials and appeals because, rather than people pleading early and copping whatever sentence the magistrate deems appropriate, these matters are dragged out. We know that there are several processes in trials and the earlier that someone enters a plea, the earlier we can look towards resolution of the matter and sentencing. That becomes a drawn-out matter. Amanda Forrester states that it would increase the burden relating to expert evidence. As we know, a plea of guilty reduces the onerous nature of the subsequent court proceedings. That is not good for the system or for making sure that justice is dispensed swiftly.
The big thing that I have spoken about at length, and that I spoke about during the second reading debate on this bill, is that it fails to take into account the individual circumstances of the offender. I have spoken about how drug mules may get caught up in this legislation, as opposed to serious drug syndicate operators, who I suggest are the people we should be considering when we are talking about the potential for a life sentence. The point is that it removes the capacity for a magistrate to take into account all the circumstances of the offending. Finally, it creates inequity between drug offenders. All these issues need to be taken into account.
This bill seeks to extend the range of sentences that will be available to our courts. The Greens will continue to say that we need to be able to trust our courts to ensure that an appropriate level of justice is afforded to every person and to impose the sentence that is appropriate.
[speeches and comments of various members]
Hon STEPHEN DAWSON : This is the advice I am getting.
Hon Alison Xamon in her contribution reminded us of the correspondence that was tabled earlier this evening from the Director of Public Prosecutions. The advice from the DPP suggests that there are a range of problems with mandatory sentencing. It is an impediment to early resolution; it results in a greatly reduced number of pleas of guilty; it has the potential to clog up court time; and it increases the cost significantly. This is in relation to mandatory sentencing.
Several members interjected.
The DEPUTY CHAIR : Order, members! The minister has the call.
Hon STEPHEN DAWSON : I am open to other members contributing and asking questions — by all means do so. However, if members want me to respond — I want to respond — they should let me do it. If Hon Charles Smith has more to say, I will sit down and he can say it again, and I will happily answer him. That is a genuine offer. I appreciate the spirit of this debate tonight. It is an important debate. However, I remind members that mandatory sentencing does not form part of our policy at the moment, for a variety of reasons. As I was saying, I am advised by WA Police that it has the potential to pick up the wrong people, such as small-time drug mules, and not necessarily the big end of town. Granted, I hear the comments that 28 grams is 28 grams, and it is a trafficking offence. What we are trying to do in this legislation is allow us to pick up those people who are causing despair and destruction in our community. This legislation is a real attempt to tackle that issue. That is what I am saying. As the DPP has pointed out, there are a range of issues with mandatory sentencing. One issue is that it provides less flexibility. Hon Alison Xamon in her contribution spoke about trusting judges, giving them discretion and providing a range of penalty options. I agree with that and the government agrees with that. Therefore, we do not support this amendment and will not be voting for it.
Amendment put and a division taken, the Deputy Chair (Hon Martin Aldridge ) casting his vote with the ayes, with the following result —
Hon Martin Aldridge Hon Nick Goiran Hon Simon O’Brien Hon Colin Tincknell Hon Peter Collier Hon Colin Holt Hon Robin Scott Hon Ken Baston (Teller) Hon Colin de Grussa Hon Rick Mazza Hon Tjorn Sibma Hon Donna Faragher Hon Michael Mischin Hon Charles Smith
Hon Robin Chapple Hon Diane Evers Hon Kyle McGinn Hon Pierre Yang Hon Tim Clifford Hon Adele Farina Hon Matthew Swinbourn Hon Martin Pritchard (Teller) Hon Stephen Dawson Hon Laurie Graham Hon Darren West
Hon Sue Ellery Hon Alannah MacTiernan Hon Alison Xamon
Hon Jacqui Boydell / Hon Alanna Clohesy
Hon Jim Chown / Hon Samantha Rowe
Hon Dr Steve Thomas / Hon Dr Sally Talbot
Amendment thus negatived.
Clause put and passed.
Clauses 8 and 9 put and passed.
Title put and passed.
Bill reported, without amendment, and the report adopted.
Bill read a third time, on motion by Hon Stephen Dawson (Minister for Environment), and passed.