Mandatory sentencing “over-reaction”

Rebecca Masters | 23rd June 2011

THE Queensland Police Union has made its position clear – if you assault a cop you should go straight to jail, but a leading Gold Coast defence lawyer believes calls for mandatory sentencing are a “massive over-reaction.”

Criminal defence lawyer Bill Potts said mandatory sentences would not only be infringing on a judges sentencing discretion but could also cause the QLD prison population to sky-rocket beyond capacity.

“The recent serious attacks on police are horrendous and will be dealt with accordingly by the courts,” Mr Potts said.

“Mandatory sentencing will not stop assaults.

“This is ridiculous and wrong.”

Mr Potts said police were well armed to defend themselves and that most assaults against officers did not cause serious injury.

“Think it through, a policy like this would have someone automatically sentenced to prison if they resisted arrest or even touched an officer on the arm,” he said.

“The state’s prison population could balloon out of control and costs of prisons escalate.”

Premier Anna Blight and Acting Police Minister Andrew Fraser have stopped short of taking the decision on jail time out of the hands of judges.

“People who assault anybody in our community should face tough penalties and if they assault police officers they should face very tough penalties,” Ms Bligh told reporters on the Gold Coast on Monday.

“Our courts have some of the toughest penalties in Australia and I expect our courts to take those sorts of crimes seriously.”

The union has made the call for mandatory sentences after the fatal shooting of Detective Damian Leeding last month, and an attack where his boss was slashed during a raid on an illegal drug lab on Sunday night.

Detective Senior Sergeant Mark Proctor, who runs the Coomera CIB, escaped serious injury during a raid on a unit when a man allegedly jumped from hiding and slashed his stomach with a broken glass pipe used in the drug lab.

He was treated in hospital on Sunday night and returned to work the following morning.

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