On New Year’s Eve, friends and neighbours of ours, who are both in the 70s, were involved in a terrible accident. They were sitting waiting for a tram when a car did a reverse U-turn and slammed them up against a cobblestone wall. They both suffered severe leg injuries which required multiple surgical interventions and skin grafts. One of them also suffered a fractured pelvis.
It’s now April. They are just out of hospital and require physiotherapy three times a week and have had their mobility severely limited. The impact of this is clearly visible when you see them. They are exceptionally resilient and have survived the ordeal with remarkable tenacity.
However, the person who was driving the car was very heavily under the influence of recreational drugs. He has a history of drug abuse and of traffic offences. The police have charged him with a series of offences, serious enough to be heard in the County Court, where the minimum sentence was three years and the maximum was 10.
The County Court has gone into recession and this case will not be heard. Rather, it will be heard in the Magistrates Court, which is not gone into recession. The difference is significant because in the Magistrates Court, a maximum sentence this drug addled moron will receive is three years. Exactly the minimum sentence he would have received in the County Court.
It leads to the question of why the Magistrates Court is hearing cases when the County Court isn’t. And it also raises the question of why the County Court is not able to conduct its business by the many technologies available for organisational communication.
The function of the penal system is fivefold.
The first is punishment which will be meted out to those who have infringed the law and injured other people.
The second is protection of society where society will be protected from people who, by the nature of their crimes, represent a threat to everyone.
The third is retribution where suffering of the victims of crime are considered in the sentencing of the criminal.
The fourth is rehabilitation which will take place (one hopes) while the convicted individual is incarcerated.
The fifth is to set an example where the rest of society sees that the commission of crimes will be punished and individuals held to account.
On this list, the Victorian justice system doesn’t get a pass mark on the first consideration of punishment because the quantum of punishment has been greatly reduced.
It doesn’t get a pass mark on the second of protecting society from the continued behaviour of the criminal because this individual will be let loose much earlier in society and may continue offending in the way that he has in the past.
It doesn’t get a pass mark on the third where the suffering of the individuals is taken into account and rightly accounted for.
It’s mark on the fourth is held over. However, given the record of this individual, rehabilitation looks to be unlikely.
It doesn’t get a pass mark on the fifth because this case the individual is seen as getting an advantage from a global pandemic.
So, while many are concerned that George Pell been treated leniently, the functioning of the justice system in Victoria appears to be failing in this particular case.
It’s not a case that involves a Prince of the Church. It’s just a case involving two people innocently sitting on tram stop for whom the functioning of the Victorian justice system has fallen badly short of the standards we would expect of it.