Submission: On review of Local Court sentencing powers

The RLC opposes any increase in the sentencing jurisdiction of the Local Court. 

RLC provides representation to people in court who have been charged with criminal offences in selected matters only and generally refers clients to other bodies. These other bodies may include the Aboriginal Legal Service, the Legal Aid Commission or private legal practitioners. However, many people in our local area attend the Centre for preliminary advice about criminal matters and we do assist in relation to victims' compensation, domestic violence and complaints about police. We deal with people who have contact with the Local Court with little understanding of the process on a daily basis. 

We are concerned that increasing the maximum penalty that may be imposed in the Local Court will result in an increase in sentences awarded. While over time the dollar amount of the jurisdiction in the Civil Division has been increased to recognise monetary inflation, the same indexation process cannot be transferred to the critical issue of loss of liberty.Two years of incarceration does not become the equivalent of five years by some process of devaluation of years of being in prison. 

Increasing the maximum custodial sentence in the Local Court will also increase the demands on the legal agencies working in local court work, including community legal centres, the Legal Aid Commission, the Aboriginal Legal Services and police prosecutors. This cannot occur without a significant increase in resources and training of these agencies.