The Crimes Amendment (Intoxication) Bill 2014 was introduced this week into the NSW Parliament. It increases the penalty by two years for a number of assault offences if they were committed by an adult who was intoxicated at the time. They also set mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment for the following offences committed while intoxicated: reckless grievous bodily harm; reckless wounding; wounding or causing grievous bodily harm to police officers.

If passed, the minimum terms will mean that these offences cannot be dealt with by a local court but will have to be heard by the District Court. Since a guilty plea will still attract a mandatory term of imprisonment they are likely to remove the incentive to plead guilty. This then means there will need to be a jury trial in the District Court. The resource implications are huge in terms of the prosecution, defence, trial, judge and jury and gaol costs, not to mention the social impact of imprisoning many more young people.

Mandatory minimum terms set by the Parliament are contrary to the rule of law which requires that cases be dealt with individually and fairly. A blanket sentence that applies to all, regardless of their circumstances is the opposite to equality before the law.

kate_twitter_picKate Burns is RoLIA’s Chief Executive Officer. Join the discussion about rule of law issues on Twitter @RoLAustralia.