Today in Parliament Mark outlined stakeholder views on this Government Bill to amend the sentencing regime and reduce sentencing discounts.
STATUTES AMENDMENT (SENTENCING) BILL 2020
The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: This bill is one of very many that I have seen on the vexed issue of sentencing in my 14½ years in this chamber. The Greens' position has always been to provide judges with as much discretion as possible in relation to sentencing, whilst acknowledging that it is the right and responsibility of parliament to fix maximum penalties and to set out criteria to be taken into account in the sentencing process.
We have mostly voted against minimum mandatory sentences because that offends the notion of judicial discretion and can lead to unjust outcomes in individual cases. We have supported maintaining the concept of proportionality in sentencing. In the words of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado, we want the punishment to fit the crime, and that is taking into account all of the sentencing considerations, including punishing offenders, keeping the community safe and encouraging rehabilitation.
I note that in the last sitting week of this chamber the concept of proportionality was removed for a number of sentencing considerations, which we feel was a backward step. In relation to sentence discounts for early pleas of guilty, the Greens have supported the codification of longstanding common law practice. In fact, I do not think any MPs have opposed making sentencing discounts available in all of the previous debates that we have had on this topic.
In fact, the only real debate has ever been the circumstances in which discounts might be available, the quantum of discounts—especially in relation to the most serious offences—the role of sliding scales of discount, and the degree of judicial discretion to allow or not allow discounts. I would note that even under the current bill the sentencing discounts proposed are maximum discounts and judges are able to offer lower amounts. That is judicial discretion at work.
This debate is no different. This is not a new and emerging issue; it is an old debate and its resolution is always complex and always contested. The views of stakeholders are important and all members of parliament should take care to familiarise themselves with the competing and conflicting arguments. This is basic lawmaking 101 and we need to do it properly.
Along with the shadow attorney-general, I also want to comment on the events of the last sitting week when the Legislative Council first received this bill. I take a slightly different approach to the shadow. Let me say at the outset that the confected outrage of the opposition in relation to the adjournment of this bill on the last sitting day of the last sitting week was partisan politics at its worst and it does no credit to the Labor Party's claim to be a responsible alternative government.
As the architect of the current system, they were so desperate to distance themselves from their creation that they were prepared to sacrifice proper lawmaking processes for a cheap headline: who can be the toughest on criminals; who can put more people away for longer? The shadow attorney-general's contribution just now made it very clear that as far as they are concerned this is pure politics. This is an election issue: which leaflets will go in which letterboxes of which local members of parliament in relation to how they voted.
I would remind the shadow attorney that this concept of sentencing discounts, the codification of 40 per cent discounts, is a decade or so old. The list of cases that he read out, he could have gone back and read out 10 years worth of cases, the period from, say, 2012 onwards (the last eight years)—if we take one of the early sentencing discount bills—10 years of cases where you can always find a crime that is abhorrent and the community is outraged by it, and then complain that the sentencing discount scheme resulted in that person staying in gaol for a shorter period of time. That overwhelmingly happened on Labor's watch, and using it as a pure political toy I do not think does them any credit.
Disappointingly, the Labor opposition dragged the Government down into the gutter with them and so the Attorney-General blames the Greens for all of this as well. Well, I have a thick skin and I can cope with it. But at least, to the Government's credit, they ultimately agreed that expecting a bill to be voted on in this chamber less than 24 hours after it was introduced was unreasonable, unless every member and every party was satisfied that it was urgent and therefore prepared to forgo any due diligence, any direct consultation with stakeholders and the opportunity to consider any amendments. The Government got that right.
Whilst the Government ultimately accepted the unreasonableness of their request—or, more accurately, the reasonableness of the Greens' request to look at this more closely—the Opposition, smelling an opportunity to be tougher on crime than the other lot, reverted to type with histrionics and theatrics, dividing on the question of whether this house should adjourn on Thursday evening, even though the item of business that they said they wanted to debate, this very bill, had already been adjourned off until today.
When the Government moved that all remaining orders of the day be made orders of the day for the next day of sitting, the Opposition let that decision stand without dividing. Yet, like petulant children, the Labor Opposition decided to punish the Government by disagreeing to adjourn the day's sitting even though there were no remaining items on the agenda.
Not surprisingly, when both the old parties have had enough of getting stuck into each other, they turn on the Greens. So I do need to put on the record why the partisan positions of both Liberal and Labor were unreasonable. I will start with the agenda of the Legislative Council. This bill was introduced into the Legislative Council at 9.01pm on Wednesday 23 September. The second reading explanation and explanation of clauses ran to some five pages of Hansard. Of course, they were not available to members until 9am the next day, that is when they are in the Hansard and when the next day's Notice Paper is published.
So the Government's request, and the Opposition's demand, was that the bill and all the accompanying material should be digested, along with hundreds of pages of Brian Martin's report and related submissions, over the ensuing nine hours.
There were also dozens of pages of secret submissions that the Government claimed were cabinet-in-confidence. I wanted to see them all, but I identified four that were of particular interest, and the Attorney eventually delivered three of these to me around midday on that last sitting day, because I had foolishly—and I will accept this—said I would do my best to get on top of the material before the end of the sitting day.
I will not be doing that again. Next time, I will follow the protocol strictly and I will refuse outright to even consider a bill like this that is unreasonably foisted on us at the eleventh hour. We do not vote on bills in the week that they are introduced unless they are urgent, non-controversial and every member agrees. If we throw that standard out the window, then we will absolutely rue the day. Our lawmaking will be the worse for it.
Part of the Opposition and the Government's criticism of the Greens is that we should have known that this bill was coming and that Labor's embarrassment at being the architects of the original scheme was so intense that they would be putting pressure to pass it immediately. So it was no longer a Labor law but becomes a Liberal law, and we should have known.
Should we have known that this was coming and supposedly the most urgent reform on the Notice Paper? The answer is no and here is why. On the Friday before a sitting week, the Treasurer sends all members a letter setting out the government's priorities for the forthcoming sitting week. In that letter there was no mention of this bill. It was not a priority.
It is not an excuse that the bill was not in the letter because it was not yet on the Notice Paper, because the Treasurer's priority letter often includes items that are not yet on the Notice Paper but which we are expecting to be introduced or to receive from the lower house and which are a priority. This has been happening all year in relation to COVID response bills. We are told that they are coming, we are told what is in them and that they need to pass by a certain date. In those circumstances, we do not stand on protocol and we do pass them as a matter of urgency. But for this particular bill, there was no mention in the Government's own priority letter.
On the Monday of a sitting week, representatives of all parties sit around the table and we determine the priorities for the week: how many speakers are likely to be on each item and whether it is likely to need an early start or a late-night sitting. It is a good process and it is handled far better under the current Government than their predecessors. In this case, there was no mention of the fact that this sentencing bill was coming and was a matter of priority and that it had to be passed immediately. If it was a matter of urgency then it would have been raised then, and it was not. We are not mind-readers. We do not know what games other political parties are going to play.
So in all this process, we were led to believe it was a regular sitting week with an established list of priorities and bills that would be introduced and debated in accordance with the usual practice. In fact, it was only when the Labor Party started their stupid law and order auction that this became an issue at the very end of the sitting week. As I say, I am not at all happy about being the meat in the sandwich, but I am more than comfortable with the fact that the bill is now being considered in the sober light of day rather than as a knee-jerk reaction to partisan gameplaying.
I think it is important to remind the public that the report on which the bill is based has sat on the Attorney-General's desk for over a year. That is how urgent this is. The Government sits on it for a year. So any alleged consequence that has flowed from not passing the bill in the last sitting week is precisely the same consequence as it has been for the past 12 months. If we go back to when Labor first introduced the 40 per cent discount, it has been a problem for all those years as well.
There is another indication, I think, as to why this debate has really been quite pathetic and a race to the bottom in the law and order auction. The Shadow Attorney-General referred to the fact that the bill was introduced into the lower house on Wednesday 9 September. It was not debated that day or the next day. In fact, it was debated in the following sitting week. If it was so desperately urgent to pass it, it would have been passed in the same week it was introduced. But the lower house, quite reasonably, took their time and they dealt with it in the next sitting week.
That is not a consideration or a respect that was shown to the Legislative Council. We get the bill at 9.01pm on one day and are expected to pass it by 6pm the next day. It is an appalling way to make laws and I think the South Australian public expects better of both the Liberal Government and the Labor Opposition. Personally, I am over these stupid games and I will not be sucked in again to only be thrown under a bus.
But I would like to deal with the merits of the bill. For starters, it is important to put on the record that this is an incredibly complex area of law and it is one that has occupied dozens of hours of debate over several bills in the last decade alone. I do not think it is a point of pride for a political party to stand up and say how few speakers they have and how they do not have any questions. This is an incredibly complex area of law. The issue of sentencing discounts for early pleas of guilty or for cooperation with the police has always been with us, whether it is part of the common law and the practice of the courts over many decades or whether it has just codified in this state in the last 10 years or so.
It is also timely to remind people that the concept of sentencing discounts is almost universally accepted by all stakeholders. If there were no prospect of getting a lighter sentence through a plea of guilty, then nobody would plead guilty. Why would you? You might as well put the prosecution to its burden of proof, cross-examine all the witnesses, including the victims, and with a bit of luck you might just get off. If you do not, well the penalty is the same anyway, so no harm was done. That is why everyone supports sentencing discounts.
In fact, it is worse. There would be great harm done if we did not have them, harm to victims forced to revisit their trauma and certainly harm to the budget with the expense of unnecessary trials. When we were looking at whether we could debate this in the last sitting week, one of the news reports was on the quite notorious murder trial in Western Australia, the Claremont killings. That trial cost $11 million.
Contested criminal trials are incredibly expensive. If every defendant pleaded not guilty the criminal justice system would probably grind to a halt and the maxim 'justice delayed is justice denied' would become reality. When you look at recent history of bills and debates over sentencing discounts, you find that reducing the backlog of cases in the courts is often the primary reason for encouraging early guilty pleas with sentencing discounts.
I did say to the Attorney-General in the last sitting week that I did want to take the opportunity to consult more with stakeholders and to consider the hundreds of pages of submissions that had been made over many years but most recently in relation to the Brian Martin review. I did contact the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement. I have had some communications with Cheryl Axleby and also another group that they are working closely with, the Change the Record organisation. I did receive some feedback and I acknowledge, as well as Cheryl Axleby, also Sophie Trevitt of the Change the Record organisation, who reminds us that:
…part of the original purpose of this bill was to facilitate access to justice. Too many people—particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples—were languishing in prison on remand due to backlogs in the courts. [The sentencing discount for early pleas] was one measure to reduce that backlog, which disproportionately affects First Nations people.
If the government reduces the incentives for early pleas, what are they going to do to address an already overburdened justice system—even more so now due to Covid or so I understand—and the substantial delays faced by people to have their day in court…
The Opposition is proud of the fact they are not going to ask any questions. I am asking a question: if an inevitable consequence of this bill is that the delays in the court system will be exacerbated, what is the Government's response to that? Does the Government have a parallel package of measures to increase funding to the courts to reduce the backlog, or will we find more people—in particular, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people—languishing on remand because they are not even able to get their day in court? That is the first question for the Minister.
At the heart of this bill is a provision that reduces the maximum available sentencing discount from 40 per cent to 25 per cent, and the rationale is quite simply that 40 per cent is unnecessarily large to achieve the purposes of the discount regime.
As I have said, this is not at all a new argument. I went back through the archives to have a look at what the Labor Party had to say about this when this chamber considered the Criminal Law (Sentencing) (Guilty Pleas) Amendment Bill back in 2012. The Attorney-General's second reading explanation, delivered in this chamber by the Hon. Gail Gago, states:
The figures for the discounts in the Bill are not intended to be overly rigid or mechanically applied. They merely provide the upper limit at which a discount for a guilty plea can be set. Though there may be debate as to what should be the precise upper limits, the figures in the Bill are not overly generous. They are consistent with existing sentencing practice. What the Bill achieves is the codification of the rule that the earlier the guilty plea, the greater the discount. It places some limits on the freedom of the courts in providing discounts in sentencing.
The Bill is not radical or revolutionary. Its major effect is to make transparent and regulate what already happens or, at least, what should be happening, in the State's criminal courts on a daily basis. There has been strong support in both Australia and overseas amongst law reform agencies, judges, academics and legal practitioners for a statutory scheme to encourage early guilty pleas and regulate discounts for guilty pleas. Such a reform helps tackle delay and thus assists all parties in the criminal justice process, especially victims and witnesses.
The Minister went on:
The present Bill represents a sensible and balanced model. Furthermore, contrary to some assertions, the present Bill should not result in the granting of unduly lenient sentences for offenders through excessive discounts. The figures for the maximum discounts in the Bill for a guilty plea are consistent with existing common law guidelines.
The Minister later went on:
A great deal of effort and preparation going over several years has gone into the Bill. The Opposition's approach has been unhelpful and obstructive. It is a bit rich of the Opposition to talk about alleviating the pressures on the criminal justice system and helping victims when all it does is seemingly oppose anything concrete that the Government comes up with. Whenever the Government makes a move to legislate to try and improve the effectiveness of the criminal courts, to tackle delays and assist victims and witnesses, maximise the use of prosecutors' time and minimise the amount of time defendants have to frustrate the system, the Opposition comes up with new arguments to oppose whatever the Government is proposing to do.
Nothing changes. That is eight years old. It is exactly the same debate that we are having now. I just remind members that that was the bill that introduced 40 per cent discounts for people who pleaded guilty at the earliest possible opportunity. I will read the final comment from the Labor Government back then:
The Bill contains an overriding provision for any court to be able to decline to provide all or part of a discount for a guilty plea within the ranges in the Act having regard to public interest considerations, namely where the gravity of the offence and/or the circumstances of the defendant are such that the sentence that would arise from conferring the discount would be so inadequate as to 'shock the public conscience'. This expression is not new and is consistent with that already used in governing prosecution appeals against sentence. It is expected that the use of this provision will be rare but it is a necessary provision to make very clear that the courts' discretion is to award up to the level of the discount—it need not award the level of discount, especially for the most repugnant offender or offences. In fact, it need not award a discount at all if the circumstances demand such a course.
None of that has changed, all they are doing is tinkering a little bit with the numbers. That general principle that the parliament is setting a range or a maximum has not changed. You still have judicial discretion, and as I have said the Greens support judicial discretion.
The review undertaken by the Hon. Brian Martin, AO QC, was announced by the current government back in September 2018. The Attorney-General said at the time:
However, the response to some recent matters from victims, their families and the broader community would tend to indicate that discounts given on sentences may not be in line with community expectations.
Sentencing is an integral part of our criminal justice system—it serves as a punishment to the offender, a deterrent to others, and a signal to the broader community that the interests of justice have been met.
It is a complex equation, which is why I have asked Mr Martin to look at whether the level of the discount available to offenders gets the balance right in delivering benefits to the community while ensuring the level of punishment is appropriate.
It is a complex matter and that is why the Attorney went to a prominent former Supreme Court judge, a prominent barrister, to actually do that complex analysis. Compare that approach to the one that has been suggested in this place, that we should automatically just sign off within 24 hours of whatever law reform is put in front of us.
I will refer to some sections of the Hon. Brian Martin's report, because it actually shows that the Government did not entirely accept what Mr Martin came up with. Certainly, Mr Martin was far more nuanced than the opposition has been in relation to this issue. At paragraph 361, Mr Martin says:
As to the maximum percentage reductions available at various stages, not only is 40% significantly higher than the maxima in other jurisdictions, there is a widespread view within the community that, put simply, 40% is too high. This is a major source of distress for victims.
In other than rare and exceptional cases, I agree that a reduction of 40% from the appropriate sentence, purely for pragmatic reasons, is too much. It detracts significantly from the fundamental principle that the sentence should appropriately reflect the criminality of the conduct, considered in the light of the offender's personal circumstances. It possesses the capacity to compromise the fundamental purpose of protecting the public and the potential to undermine public confidence in the administration of [criminal] justice.
What I have read is Mr Martin's justification for the Government's bill. That is the basis on which they have said, 'Yes, we agree; we agree with the former judge, 40 per cent is too high.' However, His Honour then goes on and says:
Notwithstanding this general view, I recognise that there may be cases involving rare and exceptional circumstances in which a 40% reduction is not only justified, but is in the best interests of the community. For example, with specific exceptions, 40% might be appropriate in the case of a first offender who not only pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity, but from the outset provided complete and valuable assistance to the authorities in respect of other offenders or serious criminal conduct. The mental capacity of an offender might be such as to place the offending in an exceptional category.
So even His Honour is not black and white about this. He says, 'Yes, generally times have moved on; 40 per cent when the Labor government introduced it may have been the standard, it now appears things have changed,' and he is prepared to agree with what the government is proposing. That is, 'Yes, that's probably on the high side now, let's drop it down a bit.' His Honour goes on:
It is apparent from my conclusions that, in my view, the sentence reduction scheme is not meeting community expectations and is a source of disquiet among reasonably minded members of the community. Further, in respect of major indictable matters, the scheme has not achieved the appropriate balance between the benefit to the community of an early plea of guilty, and the need to ensure that offenders are adequately punished and held accountable to the community. However, it must be recognised that the disenchantment with the current maximum percentages is primarily experienced in cases of serious crimes. For example, the application of 40% to sentences for summary offending does not attract adverse attention. In my view there is a good case for maintaining the existing maximum of 40% for summary matters.
In terms of the stakeholders, there were actually three rounds of submissions: two rounds were called for by Mr Brian Martin, and the Attorney-General also called for submissions as well. Interestingly, the submissions that were made to Mr Martin are publicly available; they are on the Attorney-General's website. The submissions on this bill to the Attorney-General herself are not publicly available. When I asked for them, I was told that I could not have them because they were cabinet-in-confidence.
The Hon. C. Bonaros interjecting:
The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: That is what I was told: cabinet-in-confidence. Ultimately, as I have outlined earlier, the Attorney-General did rock up to my office at about lunchtime on the day that we were expected to debate this bill, and she did produce some of those submissions. In my view, they should all be publicly available. I think that whenever the Government calls for submissions on a draft bill those submissions should routinely be available to the public. Making them available certainly makes for more efficient lawmaking—we do not have to chase things up.
I will quickly outline some of the submissions. I will start with the Law Society. The Law Society points out in paragraph 9 of their submission:
The Society conveyed to Mr Martin during the consultation for Review in November 2018, that the current sentencing discount scheme was operating well and had been extremely effective in encouraging defendants to plead guilty at an early stage. Even with respect to charges such as murder, where defendants were previously unlikely to plead guilty at an early stage.
At paragraph 12 they state, in relation to the bill:
The reduction in the discount regime is likely to further disincentivise people to plead guilty. For example, this is particularly relevant in relation to the offence of indecent assault, which is often a very useful tool in resolving child sex offences and spares a child complainant from the trial process.
So despite the outrage of the opposition—and we are all outraged at these terrible cases—the Law Society is pointing out that the availability of pleas can avoid retraumatising victims of crime. I think the case of victims of child sex offences is particularly noteworthy. In paragraph 14 of the Law Society's submission they state:
Further, the Society notes that one of the few recommendations from the Martin report that was not adopted in the Bill is Recommendation 5(a). Recommendation 5(a) provides that if the maximum percentages were lowered for cases of more serious crimes, the court could be empowered to increase the percentage reduction by up to 5% over the percentage otherwise available, if satisfied that the additional reduction is appropriate by reason of rare and exceptional circumstances attaching to the offender and/or the offending.
15. There has been no explanation for the omission of this recommendation. The Society strongly urges you to adopt recommendation 5(a) and ensure that a discretion remains for the court to increase the percentage reduction where there is good reason to do so.
If the bill did contain that, then we would be talking not about 40 versus 25, we would be talking about 40 versus 30. But at the end of the day, there is a lot of fiddling around the edges, the effect of which I think has been overstated by some members in this place. I refer also to the submission of the Bar Association. Their president, Mark C.J. Hoffmann QC, in his letter of 7 April this year to the Attorney-General says:
It is noted also that 'serious indictable offences', which include serious sex offences and offences against the person, are those where long waiting periods for trial are likely to have the greatest impact on victims. The public interest in early resolution is heightened for these matters, and a scheme which significantly erodes the existing incentives for offenders to plead guilty to serious offences at an early stage does not achieve the appropriate balance between encouraging early pleas and ensuring offenders are appropriately punished.
Further, the Court has always been empowered to reduce the maximum discount from 30%per cent or 40% if it would 'shock the public consciousness'. [The South Australian Bar Association] notes that this test was amended recently as to set the bar lower if the 'percentage contemplated would be so disproportionate to the seriousness of the offence, or so inappropriate in the case of that particular defendant, that it would, or may, affect public confidence in the administration of justice.'
The [South Australian Bar Association] considers that these existing discretions are sufficient to achieve the appropriate balance that the Bill is intended to address.
I know it is taking some time to put these on the agenda, but if we followed the Opposition's approach of having the smallest number of speakers speaking for the shortest possible time and asking no questions, none of this material would be on the public record in relation to this legislation that we are debating.
I will conclude, in terms of the submissions, by going to SAPOL—the police. That is probably a submission that members would expect would be one that would be on the harsh side when it comes to sentencing discounts, but interestingly the only police submission that is on the public record is the submission that SAPOL made to Brian Martin. The submission that police made to the Attorney-General has not been made available, and I will have a bit more to say about that in a minute.
What Grant Stevens, Commissioner of Police, told Mr Brian Martin, AO QC, in his submission back on 20 November 2018, nearly two years ago, was:
All things considered there is the general sense within SAPOL that the present (and former) arrangements for sentencing discounts bring efficiency benefits to SAPOL and, by extension, the courts.
SAPOL, with other stakeholders in the criminal justice system, is attempting to meet the challenges brought by major indictable reform, the foundations of which are built on an assumed continuation of the slightly earlier efficiency reforms, including sentencing discounts. SAPOL has a strong interest in ensuring that this delicate balance should not be upset so early in the implementation of the later reforms.
The submission from SAPOL to the Attorney-General in relation to this bill has not been made available. Again, the Attorney-General cites cabinet confidentiality. It was suggested to me that I was free to approach SAPOL myself if I wanted to get a copy of their submission, but of course that would not have been possible had we been rushing this bill through in a matter of hours in the last sitting week.
In the end, I will just say that I have received assurances from the Attorney-General's advisers that the effect of the SAPOL submission is that they do not have concerns with the current bill. I do not know what the exact words were, whether they were 'support' or 'not object', but anyway they are certainly not hostile is the advice I have been given from the Attorney's advisers, and I am happy to accept those assurances.
But it does highlight the fact that when, for whatever reason, a Government declines to provide submissions on law reform, especially submissions on bills that are coming before parliament, it does have us scratching our heads. It should ring alarm bells with members, particularly when, as is often the case, stakeholders have serious concerns. Those submissions I read out earlier would not have been on the public record if we had not had the opportunity to get them and to refer to them and to incorporate them into Hansard.
The final issue I want to deal with is in relation to alternatives to this bill. In my briefing with the Attorney-General's advisers, I asked the very simple question that if prosecutors believe that an inappropriately lenient sentence has been delivered, what else can they do about it?
The answer is pretty obvious. One is that we could do what we are doing in this bill, we can adjust the legislated maximum sentencing discount. Other methods? The obvious one is that the prosecution can appeal. The prosecution can go to a higher court and they can claim that the sentence handed down is manifestly inadequate. You hear about that all the time. You see those cases, they are reported on the news—the DPP appealing against sentences on the basis that they are manifestly inadequate.
Whilst that is not as common as an appeal against a guilty verdict by a defendant, prosecution appeals are possible and they are by no means rare. They are guided by the DPP's guideline 14, Prosecution Appeals. I will refer to one paragraph of that guideline:
The prosecution's right to appeal against sentence should be exercised sparingly and it is the policy of the Director of Public Prosecutions not to institute such an appeal unless it can be asserted with some confidence that the appeal will be successful. In considering a prosecution appeal against sentence it is to be borne in mind that the sentence for a specific offence will vary according to its nature, the circumstances of its commission, the antecedents of the prisoner, and the effect on the victim. Consequently, for any given offence there exists a range of legitimate penalty options. An appellate court will not interfere with the exercise of a Judge's or Magistrate's sentencing discretion unless an error in the exercise of that discretion can be demonstrated. In practical terms, the Court must be satisfied that the sentence imposed falls clearly outside the appropriate penalty range and may consequently be characterised as manifestly inadequate. Mere disagreement with the sentence passed is insufficient. The High Court decisions are clear that there must be a matter of principle to be established by the appeal in relation to the matter of the sentence—
and it refers to the High Court case of Everett and Phillips v The Queen.
I then asked the Attorney-General's advisers: how many of these appeals does the DPP institute against manifestly inadequate sentences? They went away and came back with some figures, and what they advise me is that there have been 81 such appeals since March 2013; that is, over seven years, 81 appeals, or 11 or so year.
When we look at the outcomes of those appeals, more often than not the prosecution is successful. In other words, in more than 50 per cent of cases the appeal court agrees that the sentence is manifestly inadequate and they bump up the sentence. In fact, the figures are (and I will just round the percentages): cases that are abandoned, withdrawn or lapsed, 15 per cent; cases where the appeal was allowed and the sentence was increased, 52 per cent—more than half.
Only 31 per cent of cases were dismissed and 2 per cent were victories for the DPP, but in a slightly different category. What that tells us is that, yes, this bill is one approach, but it is not as if it is the only approach. The prosecutors have always had the ability to go back to court and say that sentence is not quite enough.
It is probably no surprise that my contribution today was a little longer than it would have been had we been forced to debate this bill effectively within 24 hours of it being introduced. I am grateful to the Legislative Council that the council did comply with the long-established precedent that we do not rush important bills through unless there is a particular matter of urgency and that every member and every party agrees. I acknowledge that the Government did the right thing in the last sitting week.
I am not happy with the Attorney's press releases naming me as the cause of the problem. I think history will show that this will not be the last time that we look at this. It has been before this chamber every other year, just about, certainly since 2006, when I was elected. This probably will not be the last time we look at it, but I am certainly grateful for the opportunity to consider the bill in a lot more detail, and I am pleased to have been able to put on the record the fact that, despite the apparent unanimity of opinion now between the Government and the Opposition, there are some other views out there. I think it is important that the record shows that those stakeholders did have an important contribution to make as well.