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Next stage of suspended sentences abolition begins

Monday, 30 September 2013

From this month onwards, would-be offenders are on notice that if they commit a crime that is tried in the Supreme or County Court they can no longer receive a suspended sentence; jail will mean jail.

Attorney-General, Robert Clark has stated that this is the next stage in delivering on the Victorian Coalition Government's commitment to abolish all suspended sentences for all crimes in its first term.

“From 1 September 2013, any crime serious enough to be heard in the County Court or Supreme Court will no longer be eligible for a suspended sentence.  This will include crimes such as culpable driving, serious theft and fraud and various drug trafficking offences,” Mr Clark said.

Suspended sentences have already been abolished for offences committed on or after 1 May 2011 and sentenced in the Supreme Court or County Court, including murder, manslaughter, rape and other serious sexual offences, armed robbery, intentionally or recklessly causing serious injury, aggravated burglary, arson and commercial drug trafficking.

This month’s second stage sees all remaining suspended sentences abolished in the Supreme Court and County Court for offences committed on or after 1 September 2013.

The remaining stage, to commence no later than 1 September next year, will see suspended sentences abolished in the Magistrates' Court, bringing all suspended sentences to an end.

A suspended sentence is where an offender is convicted and sentenced to imprisonment, but the imprisonment is suspended as long as the offender does not re-offend. In the vast majority of cases, the offender then walks from the court completely free and without supervision.

With the abolition of suspended sentences, if a judge thinks an offender should not go to jail in a particular case, the judge will need to say so openly and impose a community correction order or other sentence, instead of the law pretending the offender is being sent to jail when they actually walk free.

“Labor's ‘soft on crime’ approach has allowed offenders sentenced on paper to a term of imprisonment to walk out of court completely free and back into the community, too often returning straight to re-offending,” Mr Clark said.

“The Coalition Government is determined to repair the damage caused by 11 years of Labor being soft on crime, be it lack of police, failures in parole, not enough prison beds or weak sentencing laws.

“Under a Coalition Government, community safety is and always will be paramount."

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 Please note: This an amended version of the original media release

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