Courts will be given more options when sentencing low-level offenders in an effort to reduce the over-representation of Aboriginal people in Western Australia’s criminal justice system.
Member for the Mining and Pastoral Region Dave Grills MLC said he supported the introduction of the Sentencing Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 into State Parliament.
“This Bill proposes to allow an offender to undertake community work in lieu of paying a fine under an enhanced Conditional Release Order regime,” Mr Grills said.
“These amendments form part of the State Government’s commitment to divert low level, first-time offenders away from sentences that could lead to incarceration.
“As a former police officer, I have witnessed how this can and does lead to a cycle of offending and convictions, where an inability or unwillingness to pay the fines leads to entry into the fines enforcement system and potentially imprisonment.”
Mr Grills said that while legislation applied to everyone equally, there was an over-representation of Aboriginal people incarcerated, including in areas of the Mining and Pastoral Region.
“One of the main aspects of the amendment is to reduce the incarceration of Aboriginal people for the non-payment of fines for low level offences, which did not warrant imprisonment,” he said.
“The State needs to take a firm, fair and friendly approach to enforcement and people need to be held responsible if they break the law. There are no exceptions.
“However, we need to be practical and avoid creating a spiral into incarnation for low level offences.”
The amendments enhance the current Conditional Release Order and provide the court with the ability to impose a fine, but then immediately offer the offender attendance at a rehabilitation program or unpaid community work in lieu of paying the fine.
“As this measure will be a direct alternative to a fine, the involvement of the offender in any programs or work will be by agreement and therefore voluntary,” Mr Grills said.
The hope is that some of the more than 5000 volunteer and not-for-profit community organisations and local governments across WA will become involved with the scheme.
The Bill complements the Bail Legislation Amendment Bill 2016, introduced into State Parliament in June to reduce the risk of accused people being unnecessarily remanded in custody, particularly those living in regional and remote WA.
For media enquiries contact Dave Grills MLC on (08) 9071 500 or email firstname.lastname@example.org