Adjourned debate on second reading
(Continued from 3 December 2015)
The Hon. J.A. DARLEY ( 16:07 :49 ): This bill expands the parameters of when home detention can be used. It will allow the courts to impose a sentence of home detention rather than a custodial sentence. Currently, only offenders who have served 50 per cent of their nonparole period of a custodial sentence are eligible for home detention. This bill removes this restriction and will allow for a greater number of prisoners to apply for home detention.
I understand that punishment of a crime should have balanced elements of punishment of the offender whilst also giving them the opportunity to rehabilitate themselves before returning to society. The minister's second reading very strongly indicated that imposing a custodial sentence on some offenders may actually do more damage than good and that home detention in a supportive environment would provide for a much better outcome not only for the offender but for the community.
However, I wonder if this change is due to the fact that our prisons are full and the government is looking for alternatives to house offenders, especially as the plans to build a new prison at Mobilong were scrapped two years ago. I understand that the proposal will not allow home detention for all offenders but only for those who have been deemed to not be a risk to the community.
I am concerned that, whilst there are restrictions for those who are already serving custodial sentences to be eligible for home detention, there are no restrictions on the courts. Currently, those who are serving a life sentence or are convicted of certain sex offences or terrorist acts are ineligible for home detention. They will continue to be ineligible should this bill pass; however, there are no similar restrictions for home detention sentences imposed by the courts.
When my office raised this with the government, the response was that the court should have flexibility to determine if a sentence of home detention would be suitable on a case-by-case basis. Does this mean that the government does not trust the judgement of the chief executive of corrections to make the same assessment? I understand the opposition have moved an amendment which will address this and I look forward to hearing the government's response to this.
Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. T.J. Stephens .