: MEDIA RELEASE

Mar 2012

26 March 2012

The Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service welcomes recommendations for parole reform

The Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service Co-operative Limited (VALS) welcomes the release of the Sentencing Advisory Council (the Council) report for the review of the Victorian adult parole system. VALS CEO, Wayne Muir, applauds the Council’s position that the Adult Parole Board should not be exempt from applying the rules of procedural fairness.
‘This report sends a clear message to Government that the time has come for the functions of the Adult Parole Board to be brought in line with contemporary standards of transparent and accountable decision-making. ‘While Victoria administers higher rates of parole than other Australian jurisdictions, ensuring procedural fairness will encourage increased positive participation of prisoners in parole proceedings. This is critical to the rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners and is therefore in the best interest of community safety where the likelihood of reoffending is reduced,’ said Mr. Muir. VALS’ Executive Officer of Legal Practice, Jill Prior, considers the Council’s recommendations to be generally positive, however remains concerned about the substantial discretion of Community Correctional Services in making decisions about parole breaches, especially in cases where there is no further offending. ‘In the context of what we know about the risks inherent in taking an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person into custody, our clients and their families have justifiable concerns about the manner and circumstances in which they are taken into custody following a breach of parole. ‘When our clients breach parole there is no opportunity for them to seek advice or judicial oversight or review of the decision placing them back in prison. As long as breach decision-making procedures are for the most part determined by Community Correctional Services, transparent process and procedural safeguards will remain ineffective in protecting both parolee and community,’ said Ms Prior.
In their submission to the Council, VALS highlighted the Government’s obligations to provide procedural fairness in the parole system in light of its commitments under the National Indigenous Law and Justice Framework (NILJF) and the Victorian Aboriginal Justice Agreement (AJA). ‘The NILJF and the AJA signal the Government’s commitment to eliminating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage in law and justice and minimise over-representation in the justice system by improving the accessibility, utilisation and efficacy within justice systems. ‘The NILF expressly states that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a right to procedural fairness and we look forward to the Government’s response to the Council’s report in this regard,’ said Mr Muir.

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For more information please contact Louise Hicks, Community Legal Education, Advocacy and Research Unit, Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service on 03 9418 5999 or lhicks@vals.org.au