Government delivers on key sentencing reform

Premier Ted Baillieu and Attorney-General Robert Clark have announced that the Coalition Government is today introducing legislation to Parliament providing for a statutory minimum sentence of four years’ jail for attacks involving gross violence.

The legislation delivers a key component of the Coalition’s election commitment to better protect the community through stronger and more effective sentences.

“As we said before the election, we need to make it clear that those who deliberately set out to take part in violent attacks, or who continue to inflict horrific injuries on incapacitated victims, will spend a long time behind bars,” Mr Baillieu said.

“For too long, the law has not done enough to protect innocent Victorians from being victims of horrific, unprovoked attacks that have left them with terrible life-long injuries.

“These changes will put violent offenders behind bars for longer and send a clear and strong message to deter would-be offenders,” Mr Baillieu said.

The Crimes Amendment (Gross Violence Offences) Bill will:
– create two new offences of intentionally and recklessly causing serious injury in circumstances of gross violence;
– require offenders guilty of these offences to be jailed with a non-parole period of at least four years;
– enable a departure from the statutory minimum sentence only if there is a genuinely ‘special reason’ in limited defined circumstances, such as co-operation with law enforcement authorities or proven mental impairment; and
– clarify and simplify the definitions of ‘injury’ and ‘serious injury’ in the Crimes Act.

Circumstances of gross violence will include:
– where the offender has planned in advance to engage in violent conduct, and the offender intended or foresaw or should have foreseen that the conduct would be likely to cause serious injury;
– gang attacks where an offender causes serious injury to the victim together with two or more others;
– where the offender plans in advance to carry a weapon and then uses the weapon to cause serious injury; and
– where an offender inflicts serious injuries on an incapacitated victim, including when a victim continues to be attacked after they have already been incapacitated.

“This law is targeted at those horrific attacks that we see and hear of, far too often,” Mr Clark said.

“A young man leaving a football game is king-hit from behind without warning, and then kicked in the head repeatedly, suffering permanent brain damage.

“A student innocently walking home through a railway underpass is bashed by a gang until unconscious, and then left for dead.

“A promising footballer is choked unconscious in a fast-food restaurant before being flung face down on the floor.

“We need to send a clear, strong and simple message to anyone contemplating taking part in these sorts of cowardly or pre-meditated attacks – ‘If you attack someone with gross violence, you can expect to go to jail for at least four years’,” Mr Clark said.

In undertaking this reform, the Coalition Government has been assisted by the advice of the Sentencing Advisory Council as to how the reform should best be implemented.

As previously announced, in order to allow time for detailed consultation with all interested parties, statutory minimum sentences for juvenile offenders have not been included in this initial legislation.