As Liberal Democrats, we believe that:
⦁ The traditional features of criminal law in Western civilisation, such as the right to silence, the right to a speedy, public trial, the protection from double jeopardy, and most importantly the presumption of innocence underpin free society
⦁ Criminal sentencing should be based on a number of different variables. Retribution by the state is not a legitimate reason for punishment.
⦁ All people should have equal opportunity before the law, regardless of financial or social status
To that end, we will;
⦁ Repeal the section of the Aboriginal Communities Act 1979 (WA) permitting the establishment of special courts in WA to try Aboriginal defendants, wherein non-legally educated Aboriginal elders hold considerable sway in the verdicts. Sharia courts and Islamic Dispute Resolution Organizations will also be outlawed
⦁ Introduce sentencing reform that balances deterrence, incapacitation, justice for victims and, where possible, rehabilitation. We will continue to stand against the reintroduction of the death penalty
⦁ Continue to fund and expand legal aid for low-income individuals, ensuring that everyone has access to legal representation
The death penalty was abolished in Western Australia in 1984, and many celebrated when it was. Recently, however, after several shocking and heinous crimes in Perth, calls are emerging for it to be re-introduced. While it is probably the case that there are some criminals who deserve death – Dante Arthurs and Katherine Birnie come to mind – it is not the government’s job, nor is it anyone else’s, to decide who lives and dies. The death penalty raises a number of moral issues, many of which cannot be reconciled. A civil society should not have the state as the arbiter of who gets to live and die – that is an incredibly slippery slope. Retribution by the state is not a legitimate principle of sentencing.
True equality under the law
Being equal under the law also encompasses one’s right to legal defence. While everyone has the right to be represented by a lawyer in court, not everyone can afford to hire one, as many cost thousands daily. Thus, providing low-income defendants with legal aid is vital to ensuring that everyone has equal opportunity before the law – perhaps the most critical situation in one’s life.
Criminal sentencing is an incredibly difficult thing to implement fairly. There are numerous legitimate principles for sentencing: deterrence, incapacitation, justice for victims, and rehabilitation. Just and fair sentencing should balance the correct proportion of all these principles. Every crime committed is done so in a different context, by different perpetrators with different intentions, leading to different consequences. Sentencing should reflect this – the Liberal Democrats aim to be tough on serious crime while opposing one-size-fits-all minimum sentencing.
Liberal Democrats also support defendants being able to select a trial by judge alone should they wish. Almost all legal scholars support this idea, and we believe people should have the right to choose how they are judged.