TWO members of Orange’s legal fraternity say any tool which demystifies the justice system including the proposal to allow filming of the handing down of Supreme Court sentences in NSW is a positive initiative.
Solicitor Toby Tancred said he is prepared to set aside some initial scepticism over the NSW state government proposal if it gives the public greater insight into the issues judges have to take in to consideration when handing down sentences.
“It is draft legislation and the devil is in the detail, however it only apply in cases presided over by a judge and not a jury and it will probably be a good thing,” Mr Tancred said.
Solicitor Michael Madden says understandably the public has limited understanding of the issues facing judges in sentencing.
“The public have never been part of our judicial system and this will give them an opportunity to get some insight into the process,” he said.
Mr Madden said judges in handing down sentences have to take into consideration why the accused offended and the background and causal factors leading to the event, whether or not they plead guilty, as well as an accused’s past history and the prospects of rehabilitation.
“For example while there is a great deal of sympathy for victims of sexual abuse it may well be the accused has themselves been sexually abused and this needs to be taken into account,” he said.
“The public have never been part of our judicial system and this will give them an opportunity to get some insight into the process"
However Mr Madden said the recent publicity and media scrutiny associated with “king hit” or “coward punch” sentencing led to what he believes was a knee jerk reaction by the government to impose mandatory sentencing for political reasons.
Mr Tancred said at the core of all sentencing is ensuring every case is treated on an individual basis.
“I am not yet convinced the government is pursuing this change for the right reasons,” Mr Tancred said.
He did say however although the decision to allow filming in court may be politically motivated it doesn’t necessarily lack merit.
“But we must remember that every offender has their own circumstances which has to be taken into account,” he said.
Mr Madden said the Magistrates’ Early Referral Into Treatment (MERIT) program is a perfect example of how people can be given opportunities to be rehabilitated while under supervision.
“But there is a six week wait - the program is under resourced,” he said.