Mandatory sentencing removes judicial discretion and does not deter violent offenders, a former West Australian Supreme Court judge says.
Justice Michael Murray retired in January last year after 22 years as a judge and was recently appointed the parliamentary inspector of the State's Corruption and Crime Commission, responsible for investigating allegations of misconduct.
He has long been a vocal opponent of mandatory sentencing, writing and delivering several papers on the issue.
Justice Murray said mandatory sentencing removed the “guided exercise of discretion” by an experienced judicial officer such as a magistrate or a judge.
“Any sentencing exercise involves a considerable difficulty in exercising discretionary judgment by mixing a very complicated web of relevant factors concerned with the seriousness of the crime and the nature of the offender that you’re dealing with,” he told ABC radio on Tuesday.
“If you impose a requirement for mandatory sentencing, it takes no time at all before the court comes up against a difficulty which shows that the need to impose the mandatory punishment simply creates injustice that otherwise would have been avoided by the proper exercise of discretion.”
Justice Murray said he did not believe mandatory sentencing was a deterrent for criminals and the laws were merely a political reaction to crime.
WA has mandatory jail terms for assaults against police, ambulance officers, transit guards, court security officers, prison officers and drivers who kill or injure anyone while fleeing police.
In the lead-up to the March 9 election, the Liberals have proposed broader mandatory sentencing so that burglars who physically or sexually assault residents will be jailed for minimum terms from three to 15 years.