17 Jul 2009

Chief Justice's speech continues to cause ripples

7:10 pm on 17 July 2009

The Corrections Department has added its support to those backing the country's top judge and her controversial comments about prison over-crowding.

In a recent speech, Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias suggested a range of initiatives aimed at cutting the prison population, such as an early-release amnesty, shorter parole terms and bail legislation reform.

Justice Minister Simon Power said on Thursday that he was surprised by the comments, which didn't reflect government policy.

That was echoed by ACT MP David Garrett, who says Dame Sian has crossed the line into the political realm and is setting a dangerous precedent.

Corrections chief executive Barry Matthews, however, agrees with Dame Sian that more community support would help the Community Probation and Psychological Services.

He says an increase in demand has put pressure on the service and there's always room for more people to be involved in helping offenders and their families.

The Council for Civil Liberties has endorsed the speech, saying that it's sensible, measured and appropriate.

Do victims wind up re-victimised?

Dame Sian's speech also questioned whether the justice process actually ends up re-victimising the victims.

Judy Ashton, whose daughter Debbie was a victim of vehicle manslaughter, doesn't believe that is the case.

And former ACT MP Stephen Franks says Dame Sian has placed herself in the camp of 'psychobabble people' with her suggestions.

Mr Franks, a lawyer, calls the speech 'airy-fairy'.

However, defence lawyer Jim Boyack told Morning Report that the Chief Justice had simply made an observation that many people in prison were fully rehabilitated, so what was the point of keeping them there?