Labor backbencher Marisa Paterson has broken ranks with the government to add her voice to a chorus calling for a wholesale review of sentencing in the Territory.
That’s something the government has pushed back against.
Dr Paterson, who has been working with Canberra dad Tom McLuckie in recent months following the tragic death of his son Matthew, said she doesn’t believe her position should be politicised.
“I’m a concerned local member and I’ve had multiple constituents raise this with me as an issue,” Dr Paterson told Region yesterday.
“I think a review is reasonable, practical and shouldn’t be an issue. It’s always healthy to review these things.”
She is specifically interested in a deeper examination of sentencing as it relates to dangerous driving offences, particularly given her conversations with families who have lost loved ones on the Territory’s roads.
“It does seem there may be issues there, and [Mr McLuckie’s] campaign has received a lot of support,” she said.
But Dr Paterson has indicated she supports a full review into the judiciary, which Mr McLuckie has also called for.
Twenty-year-old Matthew McLuckie was killed by a speeding car travelling on the wrong side of Hindmarsh Drive in May.
His dad has since launched a social media campaign for mandatory minimum sentencing with no parole for serious motor vehicle crime, loss of license, and impounding motor vehicles for excessive speeding and other reckless driving.
Mr McLuckie has also submitted three petitions to the Territory’s Legislative Assembly demanding a review of the performance of the ACT judiciary in regards to sentencing and a review of the process of appointments to the judiciary.
A third petition is calling for the implementation of sentencing guidelines for grievous and purposefully reckless motor vehicle crimes and addressing recidivism.
Each has been signed by more than 2000 people.
Dr Paterson had commented on a recent post to throw her support behind a review of sentencing in the Territory.
“I think we should always strive to improve outcomes for the community (which should have a rehabilitation focus and may very well include community correction orders, good behaviour orders etc), but the community should feel confidence in these decisions – particularly around judgments for serious criminal offences. There is work to be done,” she wrote.
Dr Paterson’s position, which she confirmed to Region is not that of her party room, has been seized on by the Opposition.
Canberra Liberals’ spokesperson for police Jeremy Hanson said Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury’s position was now “untenable” and he should resign.
“Backbenchers in his own government are calling for it to be done,” he said.
“This statement joins calls from the Police Association, the families of victims of crime, and the Canberra Liberals, who have called for a review for years.”
In recent weeks, Mr Rattenbury has been repeatedly forced to defend his position on reviews into sentencing and bail, arguing he’s not sure what the purpose of one would be as several other pieces of work were already underway.
“This work is ongoing, but the current evidence doesn’t suggest a need for a wholesale review and therefore, the ACT Government has not committed to on,” Mr Rattenbury said in a statement yesterday afternoon.
“While some of the issues that have been raised have some merit for further consideration, they do not amount to a systemic failure of the justice system.”
An inquiry into dangerous driving in the ACT will hold its first public hearings next month. Dr Paterson is a member of the committee conducting the inquiry.
A spokesperson for Chief Minister Andrew Barr described the Liberals’ statement as “silly hyperbole”.
“A ‘wholesale’ review is not required. Instead, the Attorney-General has indicated a narrower range of areas that he is pursuing and any actions that are required will be undertaken in consultation with relevant stakeholders,” the spokesperson said.
Mr Hanson has threatened to move a no-confidence motion in Mr Rattenbury if he does not agree to conduct a review into sentencing and bail.
If the Opposition moves a no-confidence motion against the Attorney-General it will be their fourth this year, having moved them against Minister for Education Yvette Berry, Minister for Skills Chris Steel and Chief Minister Andrew Barr. All three survived.
The 2020 Labor-Greens governing agreement dictates Labor and the Greens cannot support no-confidence motions except in very limited circumstances.
Tom McLuckie’s ACTnowforsaferroads petitions for legislative review of motor vehicle crimes and oversight of the judiciary close on 30 September 2022.