Getting tough on violent burglars

mandatory jail terms on cards
mandatory jail terms on cards

Mr Abetz said legislation to be debated in the Lower House over coming weeks mandated minimum jail terms of 75 per cent of the maximum available for adults who commit serious physical or sexual assaults during home burglaries.

Juvenile offenders aged 16 and over will receive a minimum three-year term.

Mr Abetz said being assaulted at home arguably did more psychological damage to people than being assaulted on the street.

‘A person should be able to feel safe in their own home,’ he said.

He said he acknowledged there was a danger in removing judges’ ability to use discretion in exceptional circumstances.

But he could not think of any situation in which a lengthy custodial sentence was not warranted for someone who broke into a home and raped or assaulted the occupant, whether the offender was an adult or not.

‘For a young person to commit that sort of crime, they’ve got major issues they need to work through (and are) not safe to be on the streets,’ he said.

‘I don’t think we should just lock them up and throw away the key, but you will need two or three years to work through some of those issues; how else will they be in a position in which they are obliged to participate in rehabilitation? If we provide the right programs, it could be exceedingly helpful.

‘The Department of Corrective Services is working on looking into all programs in prisons and juvenile detention centres in terms of what we can do better to reduce (repeat offending).’

Mr Abetz said the Government had a mandate to introduce the laws after campaigning on the issue at the last election.

Curtin University criminal law lecturer Jennifer Porter said the Bill addressed a longstanding issue.

The former state prosecutor said the mandatory sentencing laws for serious home invasions introduced in 1991 only applied to offenders with three convictions, or ‘strikes’, but only convictions recorded on separate days counted as strikes.

‘If an offender was convicted of 10 serious aggravated burglary offences all at once on one day, that would still only count as one,’ she said.

‘The Bill will address this issue so that every conviction for serious home invasion will count as a strike.

‘This change will be likely to have the most significant impact on the way that mandatory sentencing for aggravated burglaries operates day-to-day in this state.’