View Comments
Drug-affected thugs targeted
Higher price: Drug-affected thugs could face harsher sentences. Picture: Supplied

Criminals who are high on drugs when they offend could face tougher punishment under a proposal that the Government investigate making illicit substance use an aggravating factor in sentences handed out by the courts.

The plan is canvassed in a long-awaited review of the State's sentencing laws, which has also suggested the courts' power to impose "short, sharp, shock" sentences of three months be reinstated and the ban on terms of less than six months be scrapped.

The report identified "significant disquiet" about suspended jail terms, which former victims' reference group chairwoman Cheryl Edwardes said were an insult, and suggested partially suspended jail terms be introduced.

The review, tabled in State Parliament yesterday, has flagged a range of changes to sentencing laws that Attorney-General Michael Mischin said had essentially remained unchanged in nearly 20 years.

Mr Mischin told Parliament the review, compiled after feedback from the heads of court jurisdictions and key legal bodies, should be backed and would form the basis of sentencing changes he would take to Cabinet.

The review said that specifically identifying drug and alcohol use as an aggravating circumstance in sentencing was generally not supported because it would limit judicial discretion.

The report said Director of Public Prosecutions Joe McGrath was resolute that the voluntary use of drugs or alcohol should not be regarded as a mitigating factor, but the legislation should provide for a higher penalty if it was recognised as an aggravating factor.

In its conclusions, the review said there were precedents in road traffic laws that identified being under the influence of alcohol or drugs as an aggravating factor.

The review had unanimous support for removing the prohibition on sentences of six months or less, which Chief Justice Wayne Martin said was causing "bracket creep" in sentences and Mr McGrath said could be used to encourage first time and young offenders to consider the consequences of their actions.