For all those politicians who posture at being “tough on crime” and who bring in mandatory sentences to appear to be “smart” legislators telling magistrates and judges how to make decisions and pass sentences, hear this plea from a real live criminal lawyer dealing with the consequences of such irresponsible political action in the Northern Territory…
Statement by Marty Aust, president of the Criminal Lawyers Association of the NT, to a parliamentary inquiry into juvenile detention issues in 2019:
I am tired, I am exhausted. All my colleagues, criminal lawyers on both sides of the bar table, defence, prosecutors — we are tired. We are sick of 70 hour weeks, we are sick of youth crime, we are sick of crime in general. More so we are sick of there being victims of crime.
Part of the reason we have so many people committing offences is because they have gone through an ineffective, unsuitable and inefficient youth justice system and they are trapped. They never got the appropriate assistance to start with and unfortunately it is a revolving door.
I do not want to see this committee allow years of failed policy, irrespective of who was in government, years of failed policy reinforced and continued. We had a Royal Commission. There was a final report with over 200 recommendations. There was evidence taken for weeks on end, expert evidence, the final report with the recommendations was based on that evidenced-based expert opinion. Yet nobody is prepared to just trust the experts and implement the legislation.
I do not know if it is because people who are in power are too scared to lose power by seeming to be unpopular with the voters. I do not know if people who are not in power want to garner favour with the voters and on that basis they do not want to pass it.
Tough on crime is not real. Tough on crime is nothing. There is no tough on crime. Tough on crime is ending crime, and that is what I want to see all of the committee members undertake to do at the end of these hearings. Do not endorse poor policy for political gain. Endorse good policy for the benefit of those that vote the members in to our Legislative Assembly, because what is in their interest is not being a victim of crime.
– statement to the Social Policy Scrutiny Committee of the NT Parliament, Thursday 30 May 2019