Suspended sentences 'should remain'

SUSPENDED sentences shouldremain as options for judges and magistrates in NSW, according to the president of the Far North Coast Law Society.

Ballina-based solicitor Bill Grace said scrapping suspended sentencing options could be a concern for regional and rural communities after State Attorney-General John Hatzistergos ordered a review into the practice. Victoria is in the process of abolishing the option.

“Obviously we (FNC) don't have the facilities of the larger city centres, so it would be a concern if the sentencing options were changed,” he said.

“Suspended sentences are used by magistrates and judges to convey the seriousness of a crime, but also balances it out by using rehabilitation in the community.”

Coupled with fines, good behaviour bonds, community service orders and periodic and home detention, suspended sentences are used by magistrates as an option short of a full-time custodial sentence. However, periodic and home detention is not available on the North Coast – as it is in metropolitan areas – further limiting magistrates' options.

“I would be of the view that taking away any option for the judge or magistrate would not be good,” Mr Grace said.

“Sentencing is the most difficult thing for a judge or magistrate to do and they need as many options as they can. Every case is unique. Not one sentence fits every crime.”

Offenders who receive a suspended sentence have their jail term deferred as long as they don't re-offend.


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