Thursday, 15 September 2016
Attorney General Michael Mischin has introduced the Sentencing Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 into State Parliament, which proposes allowing an offender to undertake community work in lieu of paying a fine under an enhanced Conditional Release Order regime.
Mr Mischin said the amendments were part of the Liberal National Government's commitment to divert low level first time offenders away from sentences that could lead to incarceration.
"The concern is that in many cases, this creates a cycle of offending and convictions, where an inability or unwillingness to pay the fines leads to entry into the fines enforcement system and potentially imprisonment," he said.
"While legislation applies to everyone equally, one of the key aims of this amendment is to reduce the incarceration of Aboriginal people for the non-payment of fines for low level offences which don't warrant imprisonment."
The amendments enhance the current Conditional Release Order and provide the court with the ability to impose a fine, but then immediately offer the offender attendance at a rehabilitation program or unpaid community work in lieu of paying the fine.
The court will have the discretion to set no undertaking, a monetary undertaking, or require the offender to deposit money with the court, essentially giving legislative reinforcement to what sometimes happens in practice.
"As this measure will be a direct alternative to a fine, the involvement of the offender in any programs or work will be by agreement and therefore voluntary," the Attorney General said.
"It is hoped that some of the more than 5,000 volunteer organisations, not-for-profit community organisations and local governments across the State will become involved in the scheme."
Mr Mischin said the Bill complemented the Bail Legislation Amendment Bill 2016, which had been introduced into State Parliament in June to reduce the risk of accused people being unnecessarily remanded in custody, particularly those living in regional and remote WA.
"These changes are reflective of the State Government's commitment to prevent and reduce the number of Aboriginal deaths in custody, as well as the over-representation of Aboriginal people in the justice system," he said.