Pubdate: Mon, 20 Nov 2006
Source: Australian, The (Australia)
Copyright: 2006sThe Australian
Author: Ewin Hannan
Bookmark: (Mandatory Minimum Sentencing)
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)


DRUG dealers will face minimum jail sentences and drivers caught on
drugs will be forced to submit to random testing for 12 months after a
conviction if the Liberals are elected on Saturday.

Firing up the law-and-order debate for the last week of the election
campaign, Liberal leader Ted Baillieu said he would remove the
discretion of judges to pass non-custodial sentences on drug

Mr Baillieu said the Liberals wanted to send a strong message that
illicit drug supply and use, including so-called recreational drugs,
were not acceptable.

If elected, the Liberals will ask the Sentencing Advisory Council to
provide state cabinet with recommendations for minimum sentences for
drug trafficking. Currently, there are no minimum sentences for

The policy asserts that "in recent years judicial discretion has
generally not reflected mounting community concerns about the growing
drug tide".

"With increased supply in East Asia and increased demand in eastern
Australia, there is a growing crisis we need to prepare for by
publicising to all current and future drug traffickers that the
punishments will be harsh," it says. "Judges are continuing to use
their discretion to avoid increasing pressure on the corrections
system and exposing drug-related criminals to the drug culture in our

"The Liberal Party believes drug trafficking of any form is enormously
detrimental to society and the courts should recognise the inherently
destructive nature of drug trafficking."

Drivers caught under the influence or in possession of drugs will have
to undergo random testing for 12 months, under threat of a minimum
penalty or jail sentence.

At any time over that period, a person will be required to attend a
registered testing facility within 24 hours. The cost of the test will
be paid by the individual.

The Liberals promised to build a 200-bed drug and alcohol
rehabilitation correctional facility for drug-addicted prisoners, and
set up a 20-bed detox unit within a major Melbourne hospital.

Premier Steve Bracks said Victoria already had the toughest
drug-driving laws in the world, and criticised the Liberals' promise
to remove judicial discretion.

"We're opposed to mandatory minimum sentences as a principle," he
said. "We know it hasn't worked in any jurisdiction anywhere in the
world. The courts should have the independence and the flexibility ..
to determine what is appropriate, based on the evidence before them."

He said minimum sentences often led to inappropriate jail terms,
because the judiciary could not take any mitigating factors into account.

"The reality is that the courts are better at deciding those matters,"
he said.

Mr Bracks also promised increased penalties for animal cruelty
offences and $4 million to the RSPCA to help it investigate claims of
animal cruelty.

The RSPCA rescued 1000 animals from dangerous situations last year,
and received more than 9700 complaints about animal cruelty.
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