Strict sentencing for police assaults hopes to combat issue
THE number of police assaults - which could soon carry minimum mandatory sentencing - in Police Minister Jack Dempsey's own backyard on the North Coast exceed figures for every other region in Queensland.
In the past financial year, the North Coast region - from Bundaberg to the Sunshine Coast - recorded 120 serious police assaults, 448 in total.
Mr Dempsey, a former police officer of 20 years who has been subjected to spitting and assaults in the past, said the figures were an "anomaly of which is disappointing".
"There doesn't seem to be one definitive reason for this number of police assaults," he said.
"However, any assault on a police officer is an assault on the entire community.
"This government believes it is imperative that we protect those who protect us."
The Queensland Government has already doubled maximum sentences for serious assaults on police officers from seven to 14 years and introduced a 25-year non-parole period for the murder of a police officer.
"We will revisit the statistics later this year to see if change to penalties has had a positive impact both on sentencing and lower assault figures," Mr Dempsey said.
"If it has not, we will consider tougher sentences including minimum mandatory options."
Lawyer Cameron Browne, who takes a special interest in mandatory sentencing, said the former Labor Government's Sentencing Advisory Council, which was disbanded when the LNP entered office, made a majority finding that mandatory sentencing changes should not be made.
He said the group involved representatives from all parts of the criminal justice system, including victims' groups and police, and involved extensive consultation with stakeholders, as well as detailed analysis throughout the world.
"Studies have shown that an informed public does not significantly disagree with decisions made by judges in contrast to opinions based on short reports," he said.
"As a general principal when a person is given all of the facts a judge is provided with, in the vast majority of cases, the sentences they believe should be imposed don't differ with the courts.
"The US sentencing commission and its Department of Justice found that minimum mandatory sentences fail to deter offenders and have little to no effect on crime rates."
Mr Browne said Queensland's justice system already had an appeal process to review decisions from individual judges.
When asked whether he would consider the advice of the advisory council the LNP shut down, Mr Dempsey said the government would consult with stakeholder groups and gain community feedback before it considered tougher sentencing.
REGIONAL BREAKDOWN 2011-12
- North Coast (Bundaberg to Sunshine Coast) 120 serious assaults, 448 total
- Central Queensland (Rockhampton, Mackay, Longreach) 80 serious, 336 total
- Southern (Ipswich to Charleville) 91 serious, 302 total
- South Eastern (Gold Coast/Logan) 88 serious, 351 total
- Metro North 71 serious, 313 total
- Metro South 83 serious, 289 total
- Northern (Townsville/Mt Isa) 82 serious, 308 total
- Far Northern (Mareeba/Cairns) 97 serious, 296 total