Judge warns of great injustices
Concerns: Justice Christopher Pullin. Picture: Dione Davidson/The West Australian

A retiring Supreme Court judge has warned of "terrible injustices" under proposed mandatory sentencing laws, saying it is easy to conceive of cases where offenders who should be spared jail will end up behind bars for 10 years.

Justice Christopher Pullin, who retired this week after nearly 13 years on the bench, also highlighted an increase in cases involving drugs - especially methylamphetamines - as one of the most significant changes in offences he presided over in his time.

He said that despite it being unusual to comment on proposed laws, he felt it would be wrong not to speak out against the State Government's planned changes to laws for home invasions and repeat burglars.

Mr Pullin said there seemed to be some kind of interstate competition to legislate to increase sentences.

"Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia seem to be the participants," Mr Pullin said at his farewell ceremony this week.

Mr Pullin told The Weekend West that "great injustices" would be caused by the proposed mandatory sentencing laws being considered by State Parliament.

"People who perhaps shouldn't be imprisoned at all, or imprisoned for a short time, end up being imprisoned for a very long period of time," he said, adding that even first offenders could be ensnared by the far- reaching changes.

"There will be a fuss made about those sorts of cases if the legislation passes."

The proposed changes to home invasion laws will force courts to impose a minimum of 75 per cent of the maximum sentence for a range of sexual and physical assaults during burglaries.

The legislation would also prevent multiple burglary offences from being bundled into "one strike" and double the minimum mandatory term for repeat "three-strikers" to two years.

Mr Pullin also warned that the laws would have an adverse impact on WA's already overstretched jails.

Police Minister Liza Harvey hit back at the judiciary, saying offenders who committed the most serious sexual and violent crimes during an aggravated burglary deserved to go to jail for a long time.

"It is long overdue that the courts start to view the act of burglary as a serious offence," she said.

"This is also the view of the community, who we were elected to represent and have given us a mandate to introduce these laws."

Reflecting on his time on the Supreme Court bench, Mr Pullin said increases in sex crimes, likely because of greater reporting, and drug- related cases, particularly those involving methylamphetamines, were the two changes he had seen.

Mr Pullin said other countries such as the Netherlands had taken a different attitude towards the legalisation of drugs and this approach needed to be explored.

The West Australian

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