Courts soft on crime? No way, says top Queensland judge
QUEENSLAND'S court of appeal president blames the media for the public perception that her colleagues are too soft on crime.
She says that perception has been created by 'incomplete' reporting on the judges' reasons for sentences, especially in violent and sex crimes.
Justice Margaret McMurdo believes if the public are fully informed, they would more likely agree with sentences handed down.
Justice McMurdo is right, to an extent.
Space limitations, particularly in radio and TV reports, mean every intricacy of a person's background is not revealed.
But after more than 20 years watching the courts, I think the justice is wrong on one big thing.
Some of our judges and magistrates are completely out of step with public opinion.
Every day, we see examples of sentences that fail to act as a deterrent, fail to send a message, fail to protect the community and fail to represent the impact on the community.
The LNP went to the election with a clear 'we will get tough on crime' agenda.
Many now believe the resultant anti-bikie laws have been completely overcooked - and rushed through - without proper consideration or consultation.
Provisions such as 23 hours in solitary confinement - and putting bikies in pink overalls - are simply ridiculous, and asking for trouble.
That said, I don't buy the line that this is part of a Newman government plot to close down unions, RSLs, tuckshop convenors, and scouts gathering.
The cynic in me would say its more likely a big distraction from other things the government is up to - whether it be asset sales, the opening up of floodgates to development or the like.
But back to the Justice's comments.
The LNP has a clear right to try to deliver better justice for the victims of crime - and to ensure public safety.
We have seen too many examples where child predators and sex offenders have been allowed back into community only to re-offend.
Let's not mince words. Children have been raped or killed as a result of these monumental blunders.
That should be the biggest consideration of any judge or magistrate working in Queensland - not the bleeding heart stories offered up by lawyers on behalf of repeat offenders.
The appalling decisions of some magistrates have been highlighted recently by the media.
Put yourself in the shoes of a victim of bikie intimidation, for example.
How would you like it if they were given bail after threatening to kill you or blow your business up?
Perhaps if we see less examples of poor decisions happening, some of us might see less need for the State Government to swing the scales of justice back into the favour of the community.
Are judges and magistrates too soft on crime?
This poll ended on 27 December 2013.
Yes. Sentences rarely reflect the crime
No. Most of the time they get it right
No. The media is selective in its reporting
Yes. Victims of crime should be first consideration
This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.
In the meantime, those fighting for justice on both sides - the prosecution and the defence - should continue to argue the merits of their stance.
Debate on this issue in Queensland is healthy.
And of course, there is always the danger that the scales of justice will lurch too far from one side to the other.
Magistrates and judges should, if they passionately believe in their sentences, not be afraid to defend them in the public arena.
After all, even they are accountable to the people.
* Mark Furler is APN Australian Regional Media's group digital editor. The views expressed are his own.