Victoria shows how gangs flourish when justice system hobbled

Victoria shows how gangs flourish when justice system hobbled, by John Pesutto, Victoria’s opposition spokesman on legal affairs.

No one across Australia should think for a moment that Victoria’s gang crisis happened by chance. There are clear reasons why ­Victoria, under the Andrews Labor government, has become a lesson to governments across the country in what not to do in the criminal justice space.

The sorry story of the past three years in Victoria is one of a government driven by an ideological obsession with dismantling tough reforms the preceding Coalition government started to implement, as well an ­arrogant denial that its changes would prompt anything like the culture of violence among gangs that has since unfolded. …

In Victoria the trouble started early. It began with changes to bail for young offenders when, in 2015, … in one of the first acts of his government, [Andrews] decriminalised — yes, legalised — the breaching of bail for everyone under 18. … The effect? Bail-breaching by young ­people has gone through the roof in Victoria as signals went out across the cohort of would-be offenders, as well as the judiciary, that breaches of bail were not to be treated as seriously. Many violent crimes committed by young offenders since the changes have ­involved people in breach of their bail. …

In 2015 the Andrews government introduced a bill to weaken anti-consorting laws by imposing a range of restrictions and qualifications on police efforts to break up criminal gangs and their wider networks, often involving young and impressionable people. Anti-consorting laws are vital to law ­enforcement because without them it’s ­exceedingly difficult to crack open the links that support syndicates and gangs. … The result? Not once since these 2015 changes have police used these new laws. … Worse, the acting chief commissioner of police has said this week that Victoria Police has received advice that the laws can’t be used and it is working with the government on new laws to crack down on gangs. …

The state’s changes to sentencing cuts its own sorry story. It suffices to say here that after more than two years of Victorians seeing case after case of violent young offenders being slapped on the wrist, confidence in the government’s ability to manage our justice system through a stronger legislative ­approach to sentencing is at new lows. …

In Victoria young offenders have so many options now for avoiding a custodial sentence that they have to be extremely dangerous to be ordered to serve time in a youth justice facility.

hat-tip Barry Corke