DownUnderAllOver

DownUnderAllOver

Developments around the country

DownUnderAllOver is a round-up of legal news from both State and federal jurisdictions, and contains topical articles and short pieces from Alternative Law Journal committees around the country.

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Continuing crisis with WA Prisons, but some good news as well

Steven Castan
Western Australia

WA continues to have issues with the running of its $1 billion a year prison system as the total prison population rose to over 5100 in April.

On the one hand some prisons such as Bandyup women’s prison are in severe meltdown, with inmate numbers reaching a level whereby the prison cannot be run safely. At Bandyup up to 30 inmates have to sleep on mattresses on the floor. To cope with this accommodation crisis, the government is considering shifting men from Greenough Regional Prison to Hakea and Acacia Prisons, to make room for more women.

(2014) 39(1) AltLJ 143

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Threats to Victoria’s Abortion Laws

Ronli Sifris
Victoria

An assessment of reproductive rights in Australia, particularly the right to access abortion services, reveals a political and legal landscape in which progress on one front is frequently accompanied by regression on another front. For example, in recent years there has been significant progress in the form of the decriminalisation of abortion in Victoria (2008) and Tasmania (2013). At the same time, threats to the right of women to terminate a pregnancy have taken various forms. For example, in 2008 there was a failed attempt to remove Medicare funding for second trimester abortions, and legislation (known as Zoe’s Law) which explicitly recognises the foetus as a person in certain circumstances is currently before the New South Wales Parliament.

(2014) 39(1) AltLJ 142

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Victims of crime representative on Parole Board

The Tasmanian Commitee
Tasmania

Victims of crime could soon be given a voice on the Tasmanian Parole Board following a proposed Liberal policy to allow a representative on the Board. The new Attorney-General, Vanessa Goodwin, recently noted, ‘I have sought advice on how best to amend the Corrections Act to implement our long standing commitment to provide for a Victim’s of Crime Representative on the Parole Board. This will ensure that a representative of those who have been directly affected by crime will have an active role in decisions about prisoner’s suitability for parole’. In response, the President of the Law Society, Anthony Mihal noted his objections to the suggested reform stating that victims of crime are able to provide impact statements to the Parole Board, and under current laws the Board already has to make sure that proper consideration is given to the victim’s views. The Law Society also believes that under the new policy, rehabilitation of prisoners could be undermined, and there is a risk offenders could be treated more harshly simply because the victim has an objection. The proposed system is already in use in NSW, South Australia and Western Australia and is likely to be introduced given the Liberal Government’s belief that victims should have a stronger voice in the Tasmanian parole process.

(2014) 39(1) AltLJ 142

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Suspended sentences

The Tasmanian Commitee
Tasmania

Tasmania’s current paucity of sentencing options is set for a major overhaul with the Sentencing Advisory Council to be asked to recommend alternatives to suspended sentences. The proposed changes follow the recent election of a new Liberal Government and their promise to abolish all suspended sentences. While there has been much consternation amongst the legal community, a recent forum organized by Community Legal Centres Tasmania, the Law Society of Tasmania and Civil Liberties Australia heard that the Attorney-General, Vanessa Goodwin will consult with the Sentencing Advisory Council about alternative sentencing options that will be introduced before suspended sentences are abolished. Sentencing options that the Attorney-General suggested could be introduced include home detention, deferred sentencing and periodic detention.

(2014) 39(1) AltLJ 142

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Review of mental impairment defence

Kellie Toole
South Australia

A recent report by the Sentencing Advisory Council of South Australia (‘SAC’) has announced that the state has a higher proportion of defendants relying on the mental impairment defence than other Australian and international jurisdictions.

The SAC’s Discussion Paper Considering the Operation of Part 8A of theCriminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (SA) is now forming the basis of a formal review of mental impairment provisions.

 
(2014) 39(1) AltLJ 141

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