Holding offenders to account
Tougher laws and penalties and a stronger bail and parole system help keep our communities safe from crime.
At the same time, we need to prevent crime and deter people – particularly young people – from criminal activities.
In 2018, the Government will introduce new legislative reforms to ensure that Victoria Police have the tools they need to detect, investigate and prosecute offenders, and that convicted offenders are made to feel the consequences of their actions.
What is being done
More police and more protection
Managing serious criminals
In 2017, the Government invested $308 million to manage and supervise serious offenders once released from prison. These safeguards will include:
- electronic monitoring
- no-go zones
- reporting requirements.
While these measures will ensure that offenders in the community are being managed appropriately, some serious sexual offenders and violent criminals are clearly not suitable to be released even after their sentence ends. As a result, the Government’s new laws will ensure that when a serious violent or sexual offender is deemed unsuitable for release, that offender will remain within a secure facility.
In 2017, the Government legislated to establish the Post Sentence Authority. The Authority will independently monitor serious sex and violent offenders who are under supervision after their sentences have ended, and also manage serious violent and sexual offenders who are not suitable to live in the community after they finish their prison sentences.
To support this new post-sentence supervision and detention scheme, the Government has funded a new 10-bed, post-sentence secure facility, which will be built within an existing prison, and a new 20-bed secure facility next to the Hopkins Correctional Centre in Ararat.
The Government has also funded an expert research group, the Catalyst Consortium to better understand what causes repeat violent and sexual offending, ensuring Victoria Police can better manage criminals and improve community safety. Based at Swinburne University of Technology, the Catalyst Consortium will also look at forensic mental health and how the Government can better address mental illness in the justice system.
Victoria Police has also committed significant resources to enhancing their role in the management of serious offenders through the expansion of a dedicated team that will monitor, gather intelligence on, target and proactively investigate these offenders.
In 2018, Victoria Police will also work with other agencies to enhance information sharing, strengthening our response to offenders once they have been released.
Together, these measures will reduce the risk of re-offending and keep Victorians safe.
Family Violence Taskforce expansion
Victoria Police has set up and is expanding its Family Violence Taskforce to identify and investigate individuals responsible for family violence against multiple victims. Victoria Police models their approach on best practice methods developed by the Scotland Police Family Violence Taskforce where they combine investigations with a proactive victim approach.
In 2017, the Taskforce investigated 43 serious family violence matters involving more than 190 victims, witnesses and alleged perpetrators.
Eight cases are now before the courts, totalling 271 charges. Several high-risk criminals are in custody waiting for court hearings.
Strengthening sentences for serious offences
The Government has passed legislation to increase sentences and stop the use of Community Correction Orders (CCOs) for serious and violent crimes.
Under these changes, a custodial sentence – imprisonment or a drug treatment order – is now the only option for 11 of the most serious crimes including murder, rape, and causing serious injury with gross violence.
For these offences, courts can no longer impose a Community Correction Order or other non-custodial order.
For a further nine serious offences, the court is required to impose a custodial sentence unless special reasons apply.
The Government has also introduced new sentencing standards to ensure sentences are longer and more consistent for 12 of the state’s most serious crimes.
Additionally, the Government has created new offences with statutory minimum prison sentences for serious crimes, aggravated carjacking and aggravated home invasion. In these cases, courts must impose a minimum non-parole period of 3 years.
Reforming youth justice
In 2017, the Government passed Victoria’s largest ever suite of legislative measures to keep the community safe from youth offending. This includes:
- a presumption that 18–21 year olds who commit serious youth offences are sent to adult prison, not youth detention
- longer maximum sentences of detention for young people
- a presumption that serious youth offences must be heard in the County Court or Supreme Court, not the Children’s Court
- the toughest ever penalties for offences committed within youth justice centres, including a presumption in favour of cumulative sentences for assaulting staff, property damage, and escape
- a requirement that the Children’s Court will now have to consider the safety of the community when sentencing a child for a serious youth offence
- a requirement that the Youth Parole Board impose certain parole conditions on offenders serving detention for a serious youth offence. Conditions may include curfews, non-association, and conditions to protect victims
- creating a Youth Control Order, which could include conditions to remain in school, work or training, and may include anti-association conditions and curfews.
In addition, we have committed a further $80 million in additional funding for 68 new beds and security infrastructure across Parkville and Malmsbury Youth Justice Centres to meet rising demand due to legislative changes, including bail and sentencing reform as well as youth justice specific reforms.
This is on top of the 2017/18 Budget, which provided $288 million for a new high-security 224-bed facility at Cherry Creek. The new facility will include secure units, a six-metre-high perimeter wall, with all entries protected by mechanical and electrical anti-vehicle ramming systems.
In 2017, the Victorian Government also released the first comprehensive independent review of Victoria’s youth justice system in 17 years. The Government has accepted all 126 recommendations in full or in principle, and work is already underway across the majority of recommendations.
The Government has allocated initial funding of $50 million to respond to the review’s priority recommendations. This funding is directly working to better manage and supervise young people in custody, creating a new risk and needs assessment system to reduce the risk of re-offending, and the biggest expansion of offender behaviour programs.
Funding will also enable greater workforce capability with better training, a targeted recruitment campaign and the recruitment of 21 additional Safety and Emergency Response Team staff.
The Government has boosted early intervention programs to engage and support at-risk young people before they offend, by providing youth outreach, sport and recreational programs, mental health services and drug and alcohol support services.
Furthermore, the Government is increasing the amount of after-hours transition assistance for at-risk young offenders, including those from African and Pacific Islander communities, leaving custody.
Curbing access to illegal guns
The Parliament recently passed legislation to give Victoria Police new powers to prohibit people accessing illegal firearms where community safety is at risk.
The Firearms Prohibition Order regime gives Victoria Police a range of powers including the power to search individuals and to seize illegal firearms in their possession.
These laws give our police new tools to manage high-risk people and will help to prevent serious and organised crime and other threats such as terrorism.
These laws also significantly increase the ability of Victoria Police to target organised crime gangs who use illegal firearms.
What we’ll deliver
- giving police more powers to crackdown on organised crime
- making Victoria’s bail system stricter and stronger
- strengthening sentencing and restricting the use of Community Correction Orders
- improved intervention and monitoring of young people on bail
- targeting petrol thieves through information sharing and intelligence
- expanding and improving our corrections system.
Targeting organised crime
Organised crime is evolving rapidly and taking advantage of new technology to evade police efforts to stop their illegal trade and the harm it brings to Victoria.
To respond effectively, police need powers to disrupt these evolving organised crime gangs and their tactics.
To help stop organised crime groups benefitting from drug dealing, in 2018 the Government will create a new offence of commercial trafficking carried out for the benefit of, or at the direction of, an organised crime organisation.
Victoria Police has also asked the Government to strengthen police powers to stop people from repeatedly associating with convicted criminals. This will prevent criminals from building and maintaining their criminal networks.
In response, the Government will introduce new unlawful association laws later this year.
The Government will also undertake a broader examination of the criminal organisation control laws to identify potential opportunities to help Victoria Police to better disrupt criminal gang activities.
Organised criminals are motivated by profit. The Victorian Government will strengthen the asset confiscation regime so that more proceeds of crime can and will be taken from criminals.
The Government will also continue to examine ways to improve Victoria’s unexplained wealth system to strengthen Victoria Police’s ability to directly target the accumulated assets and wealth of people whose lifestyles are funded by crime.
Tougher bail and remand
Following the comprehensive and independent review of Victoria’s bail system by the Hon Paul Coghlan QC, the Government committed to making real changes to our state’s bail laws.
The Government has now passed both stages of its bail reforms. The changes will make it harder for people who are alleged to have committed certain serious offences to be released on bail.
Stage one of the bail reforms require decision makers, including magistrates and judges, to place a higher priority on community safety when making bail decisions.
Bail will be refused for more offences, including aggravated home invasion and aggravated carjacking.
There will also be a presumption against bail for many more offences, including intentionally or recklessly causing serious injury with gross violence and culpable driving causing death.
People who commit serious indictable offences while on bail, summons, parole, under sentence or at large, will not be granted bail again unless they can prove there are exceptional circumstances.
Stage two of the bail reforms will give police new powers to remand accused people for up to 48 hours until a court is available to hear their application for bail.
It will also clarify the tests for granting bail – the ‘unacceptable risk’, ‘show compelling reason’ and ‘show exceptional circumstances’ tests – by setting out when each of the tests for bail should apply.
The unacceptable risk test will be strengthened by emphasising the importance for decisions makers to take into account a person’s potential risk to community safety.
Bail justices will continue to have a role, but it will be more limited - in relation to children, Aboriginal people and vulnerable adults.
In 2018, the Government will also amend Victoria’s bail laws to include a presumption against bail for accused persons with links to terrorism, in response to the Expert Panel on Terrorism and Violent Extremism Prevention and Response Powers advice.
All told, these changes will make it more difficult for accused people to receive bail.
In 2018, the Government will further strengthen sentencing, restricting the use of Community Correction Orders and other non-custodial orders.
Under these tough new changes, a custodial sentence – imprisonment or a drug treatment order – will be the only sentencing option for aggravated home invasion and aggravated carjacking.
Building on the Government’s 2016 reforms, these offences will be treated as Category 1 offences, meaning the courts will no longer be able to impose a Community Correction Order or other non-custodial order for these offences.
In 2018, the Government will also require the courts to impose a custodial sentence, unless special reasons (such as intellectual disability or acquired brain injury) apply, for five additional offences: armed robbery (in circumstances where a firearm was used or injury occurs or there is more than one offender), home invasion, carjacking, culpable driving causing death and dangerous driving causing death.
Further, in 2018, the Government will limit the “special reasons” provision in the Sentencing Act, to make clear that an offender cannot rely on the fact they were under the influence of illicit drugs at the time of offending to claim impaired mental functioning.
As a result of the actions already taken, and the actions to be taken in 2018:
Custodial sentences will be required for the following Category 1 offences:
- causing serious injury intentionally in circumstances of gross violence
- causing serious injury recklessly in circumstances of gross violence
- rape by compelling sexual penetration
- incest (two separate offences where the victim is under 18)
- persistent abuse of a child under the age of 16
- sexual penetration of a child under the age of 12
- trafficking a large commercial quantity of a drug of dependence
- cultivating a large commercial quantity of narcotic plants
- aggravated carjacking
- aggravated home invasion.
Custodial sentences will be required for the following Category 2 offences:
- child homicide
- causing serious injury intentionally
- kidnapping (including at common law)
- arson causing death
- trafficking commercial quantity of a drug or drugs of dependence
- cultivating commercial quantity of narcotic plants
- providing documents or information to facilitate a terrorist act
- armed robbery (in circumstances where a firearm was used or injury occurs or there is more than one offender)
- home invasion
- culpable driving causing death
- dangerous driving causing death.
There are new sentencing standards, requiring even longer sentences, for the following 12 offences:
- murder (including murder of an emergency worker or custodial officer)
- trafficking large commercial quantity of a drug of dependence
- culpable driving causing death
- persistent sexual abuse of a child under 16
- sexual penetration of a lineal descendant under 18
- sexual penetration of a step-child under 18
- sexual penetration with a child under 12
- sexual penetration with a child under 16
- sexual assault of a child under 16
- sexual activity in the presence of child under 16
- causing a child under 16 to be present during sexual activity.
There are new statutory minimum non-parole periods for:
- aggravated carjacking (3 years)
- aggravated home invasion (3 years)
- where an on-duty police officer or emergency worker is injured by an adult offender who has intentionally exposed the worker to risk by driving (2 years).
Strengthening our correctional system
Because of Victoria Police’s work and because of stronger sentencing, bail and parole, more people will be caught, arrested, sent to jail, and sent to jail for longer.
To cater for the resulting demands, the Government has already invested over $995 million in Victoria’s correctional system. That includes funding for community corrections, facilities and more staff, as well as detailed planning work to future-proof the system.
There is much more work to do. It’s why in October 2017, the Government opened the Ravenhall medium security facility, adding an additional 1,000 beds to the system.
Additionally, in December 2017, the Government announced $345 million to add 470 new beds across the system and early this year, announced plans to significantly expand the Lara Prison Precinct.
Protecting Victoria Police personnel from harm
Victoria’s police put themselves on the line to protect our state. It’s only right we do everything we can to keep them safe.
In 2017, the Government established the Police Harm Working Group with representatives from Victoria Police, The Police Association of Victoria, and the Department of Justice and Regulation. This group has worked together to develop new laws and practice to better protect police and other emergency service workers. Based on advice from the working group the Government has created new laws to target offenders who seek to harm police and other emergency service workers using motor vehicles.
In 2018, the Government will introduce more laws to further protect Victoria Police personnel and ensure harsher penalties for offenders. These will include:
- a new offence of intimidation of a police officer or Protective Services Officer (PSO) or Police Custody Officer (PCO)
- a new offence of assaulting a police officer or PSO armed with an offensive weapon, and
- a new offence of discharging a firearm to threaten a police officer or PSO.
The working group is also informing other reforms to policy and practice associated with the prosecution of police harm offences to ensure better prosecutorial outcomes.
Reforming youth justice
When it comes to youth offending, our priority is to hold perpetrators to account, while also preventing young people from offending in the first place.
In 2018, Victoria Police will introduce an Embedded Youth Outreach pilot in two sites, Wyndham and South East Melbourne, to provide immediate assessment and response to high-risk young people. This approach will build on the PACER pilot operated in Southern Region from 2007 until 2011.
This year will also see the Intensive Monitoring and Control Bail Supervision Scheme program introduced. As a bail support service, this program will provide a more intensive level of intervention and monitoring of young people on bail.
In 2018, new Youth Control Orders will also become available. These orders will see young offenders being intensively monitored, while also addressing the root causes of their offending. This includes ensuring young people are actively engaged in education, training and employment.
The Government is also building a new high-security youth justice facility at Cherry Creek, in Melbourne’s west. Providing a new youth justice facility is an essential part of the Government’s commitment to improving community safety, with a focus on increased supervision and rehabilitation.
Banning cash payments for scrap metal
Victoria Police and the VLRC identified that the scrap metal and vehicle recycling industries are vulnerable to infiltration by organised crime.
In 2017, the Government passed laws to stop scrap metal traders paying cash for scrap metal and from buying unidentified motor vehicles. The laws also give Victoria Police new powers to search the properties of scrap metal traders.
In 2018, the Government will introduce new laws to strengthen police powers to act against unregistered second-hand dealers, pawnbrokers or people suspected of engaging in serious criminal activity.
These laws will enable police to close businesses where these crimes happen.
Police will also be given more powers to seize property connected with such offending or any assets resulting from it.
Targeting petrol and vehicle theft
Petrol and vehicle theft can co-occur with serious offending.
Recognising this fact, Victoria Police and industry are working together to identify vehicle and petrol thieves and hold them accountable.
This work came about from the Parliamentary Inquiry into Fuel Drive Offs, which handed its report to the Government in 2016.
Since then there has been substantial progress made by the sector in preventing fuel theft. Victoria Police is reviewing its fuel drive-off policies, with a view to prosecuting more fuel thefts where there is a clear criminal intent.
To further support retailers, ways to make up to date data on stolen number plates and vehicles accessible to retailers are being explored. The industry will in turn be positioned to provide intelligence to Victoria Police to ensure offenders are being caught and prosecuted.