Push for tougher sentences

North Metropolitan MLC Peter Katsambanis, Police Minister Liza Harvey and resident Ivan Ivankovic.
North Metropolitan MLC Peter Katsambanis, Police Minister Liza Harvey and resident Ivan Ivankovic.

Speaking at a community safety forum in Merriwa this month, Liza Harvey said she planned to table changes to include mandatory minimum sentences of at least 75 per cent of the maximum sentence.

Mrs Harvey said she planned to introduce mandatory sentencing legislation for burglaries that involved grievous bodily harm or sexual assaults.

She said there were about 20 to 30 aggravated burglaries, or ‘home invasions’ in WA a year, adding that most burglars leave a property if they find someone home.

‘When people have their homes broken in to, that’s the highest level of crime that most people have to deal with,’ she said.

‘The reason that I’m changing that legislation is that people (if found guilty) were getting a slap on the wrist, if anything.’

About 15 people attended the May 8 forum at the Jenolan Way Community Centre, hosted by North Metropolitan MLC Peter Katsambanis.

Mr Katsambanis said community surveys indicated crime, particularly in relation to vehicles and hoons, was at the forefront of people’s concerns.

Mrs Harvey said her ministerial role was to ensure police were resourced, legislation was contemporary and the service provided by police was what people wanted.

She said, compared to other states, WA had high burglary figures, but people were generally given three strikes before being sent to prison, which meant prolific offenders could have committed many burglaries.

‘The way police work is they will bring one offender to court with a number of charges,’ she said.

‘Instead of that being 10 burglary charges, that counted as their first strike.

‘Each offence within a 24-hour period becomes one strike.’

The minister gave an example of someone charged with 158 burglary offences who had not spent one day behind bars.

‘Police officers’ biggest frustration was they were rounding up the same people all the time,’ she said.

A forum attendee said legislation was ‘only useful if it’s used’ adding he had been ‘viciously assaulted’ in his home in January.

He said his attacker was initially charged with aggravated burglary and assault, but those charges were downgraded to trespass and assault, leading to two spent convictions and a $500 good behaviour bond.

Mrs Harvey said that was a frustrating aspect of the current legislation, because victims did not have a say when police downgraded charges to get a guilty plea.

‘We need to give more power to the victims of crime,’ she said.

‘There will be some victims of crime out there who have a naturally forgiving nature, but there will be some victims who actually do want to go to court.’

Another attendee said people were being let down by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, with low compensation amounts given to some people.

He said he had worked in law enforcement, been a victim in three serious assaults and had suffered broken bones.

‘When it comes to compensation, nothing happens,’ he said.

Butler residents said they were concerned about burglaries, whether the area was policed enough and antisocial behaviour in the suburb’s main park.

Mrs Harvey said police measured demand for services by the number of calls to 131 444 or 000 in emergencies.

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