Adjournment speech

October 6, 2021

My adjournment is to the Minister for Corrections and the action I seek is for the government to reverse pandemic-related discounts applied to sentences for offenders currently incarcerated for violent or sexual offences.

President, I raised concern in February this year about pandemic sentence reductions, following reports that approximately 5000 convicted criminals were released early because of the special COVID-19 emergency management day rules.

More recent reports suggest around 380 offenders of federal crimes, which include terrorism and child sex offences, are receiving significant discounts to their sentences under ‘emergency management days’ in Victoria. Victoria is the only state that hands out this type of discount, giving prisoners up to four days for every day of disruption to their incarceration.

Public Accounts and Expenditure Committee transcripts from the Inquiry into the Victorian Government’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic note that as of August 26, 2020, more than 70 thousand days were granted to over 4000 sentenced prisoners. A further 106,874 days had been applied to prisoners on remand.  We can probably safely estimate that figure is now at least double.

Law-abiding citizens of Victoria have had their ordinary freedoms substantially curtailed during the pandemic. They have been confined to their homes, subject to curfews, unable to work, unable to play sport, closed to playgrounds and schools, unable to cross borders, unable to see family or friends.

We’ve been told it’s necessary, unfortunate, but unavoidable. Law-abiding citizens haven’t received any special treatment or concession for this disruption – far from it!

A question for another day may also be the further impact of delivery of rehabilitation programs as a result of these sentence discounts.

What is certain is that for every crime, there is a victim.  They are often forgotten in our justice system.  A recidivist child sex offender – with a history of breaching CCOs and a criminal record across three states – had 300 days wiped off his sentence. What justice does this deliver for these victims?

Victoria is experiencing the highest COVID case numbers of the pandemic so far in this state. Prisons are no exception to this. Everyone is dealing with those inconveniences, and it is an affront to victims that criminals should receive special treatment as a result.

The federal government has indicated they will introduce legislation to prevent offenders of federal laws from access to emergency management days.  The Victorian government has tightened some aspects, but I implore them to do more and immediately reverse this practice, particularly for violent and sexual offenders.