The Civil Liberties Council today attacked the State’s Government new ‘bikie laws’ particularly the mandatory seven year prison term to be served on top of the sentence that a person has been arrested for.

Civil Liberties Council Vice President, Terry O’Gorman, said that the reduction of the mandatory term from 15 years under the Newman Government VLAD laws to seven years in the Palaszczuk Government bikie laws is only slightly less severe but the fundamental injustices and serious unfairness of a mandatory sentencing scheme remain.

The Council agrees with the stance adopted by the conservative Rule of Law Institute who submitted to the Wilson Taskforce which reviewed the Newman bikie laws that “the use of law to impose excessively mandatory sentences to achieve the political objectives of the Parliament to be ‘tough on crime’ is incompatible with the operation of the Rule of Law”.

Mr O’Gorman referred to the comments of the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia in the Kuczborski VLAD case who observed:

“Under the VLAD Act it is quite possible that a person who would not receive a custodial sentence in the lower range of seriousness (for the offence the person was arrested for) would nevertheless be sentenced to a mandatory 25 years imprisonment”.

Mr O’Gorman said that the Attorney-General (Yvette D’Ath) said in the Explanatory Notes to the new bikie laws that “If the base component (the sentence a person gets for the offence that person was arrested for) does not require the offender to immediately serve a sentence of imprisonment, the offender is to immediately begin to serve the mandatory component”.

Mr O’Gorman said that the Wilson Taskforce noted that mandatory sentencing of this type is a strong incentive for an accused to provide false information in the hope that they can avoid the mandatory sentence.

“We will inevitably witness the spectre of a person fabricating evidence and falsely accusing someone of a crime that they have not committed in order to avoid the mandatory sentence” Mr O’Gorman said.

Mr O’Gorman said it is ironic that Queensland is walking the failed path of mandatory sentence at a time when the criminal justice system in the United States is starting to retreat from mandatory sentencing.

Mr O’Gorman said that informers who currently seek reduced sentences in the current non mandatory sentencing scenario are dealt with in closed Court despite the Supreme and District Court Bench Book noting that ‘openness of our Courts is a fundamental principle of our judicial system’.

Mr O’Gorman said that informers escaping the mandatory seven year imprisonment on top of the sentence for the offence that they have been arrested for because they are dealt with in closed Court far from the prying eyes of the media will inevitably cause miscarriages of justice.

The mandatory sentencing scheme means that a Court will be bound to sentence a person to seven years even if they do not receive imprisonment for the offence they are arrested for.

This makes DPP Prosecutors far too powerful as the now discredited US mandatory sentencing scheme was filled with examples of Prosecutors misusing their position and forcing people to plead guilty under threat of indicting them for offences that carried large mandatory sentences.

Mr O’Gorman said that during the Wilson Taskforce Report there was voting by a majority of four to two against the introduction of mandatory sentencing with the Queensland Police Union and the Commissioned Officers Union arguing for mandatory sentencing.

“After the release of the Wilson Taskforce Report it appears only the police have been consulted by the Government and the Bar Association and the Queensland Law Society were only briefed on the details of the legislation once policy decisions about the new law were made by the Government after secret police briefings.

Mr O’Gorman said that it was an outright absurdity that a Court could be forced to sentence a person to a mandatory seven years imprisonment if the Court decided that the offence that the person had been arrested for did not itself require a term of imprisonment.

“The Civil Liberties Council urges the cross benchers to reject the seven year mandatory sentencing as it inevitably is going to cause serious miscarriages of justice”.