Violent thugs to face at least four years’ jail for gross violence

Thugs who inflict gross violence on their victims will face at least four years in jail under a Victorian Liberal Nationals Coalition Government, Coalition Leader Ted Baillieu said today.

This new law, targeted at street violence, is in addition to the introduction of baseline sentences for all serious crimes, which the Coalition has previously announced.

Mr Baillieu said this measure would send a clear message that violent attacks on innocent Victorians would not be tolerated under a Coalition government.

Courts will only be able to impose a minimum sentence below four years in tightly defined exceptional circumstances. To qualify as “exceptional” the circumstances of the case must be so unusual that the court is entitled to assume Parliament would never have intended them to be covered.

“Victorians are sick and tired of reading time and time again of horrific, unprovoked attacks that are leaving victims with terrible life-long injuries.

“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 to the ground.

“Vicious kicking or stomping on the heads of victims is becoming commonplace, and the deliberate carrying and use of knives to inflict terrible wounds continues unabated.

“These attacks go way beyond spontaneous street brawls. They are part of a culture of extreme violence that threatens to change forever the generally law-abiding and peaceful way of life we have been so fortunate to enjoy in Australia.

“Too often, current sentencing laws fail to deliver penalties that will protect the community and deter would-be offenders.

“Three out of every four offenders convicted of intentionally causing serious injury receive a minimum jail term of two years or less.

“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.

As part of its sentencing reform agenda, a Coalition Government will apply a four year statutory minimum sentence to the offences of intentionally or recklessly causing serious injury where gross violence is involved, such as where the offender:

· plans in advance to engage in an attack intending to cause serious injury;
· engages in a violent attack as part of a gang of three or more persons;
· plans in advance to carry and use a weapon in an attack and then deliberately or recklessly uses the weapon to inflict serious injury; or
· continues to violently attack the victim after the victim is incapacitated.

In the case of juvenile offenders aged 16 or 17, a two year statutory minimum sentence will apply, which is the maximum period of detention in a juvenile justice centre which the Children’s Court is permitted to impose for an offence under current law.

Where the statutory minimum sentence applies, the sentencing judge will be entitled to set a minimum non-parole period lower than the statutory minimum only in genuinely exceptional circumstances as specified in the legislation. The judge will remain free to set a longer minimum than four years where appropriate in accordance with current sentencing principles.