Parolees have been charged more than 70 times in six months for the new criminal offence of breaching parole.
As the Adult Parole Board expressed confidence that reforms implemented after Jill Meagher’s murder ensured the integrity of the system, the figures reveal police are cracking down on parolees who flout the conditions of their order.
But it remains unclear whether the reforms will reduce the rate of reoffending, with one criminal lawyer saying the majority of those charged with the new offence had also been charged with committing further offences while on parole.
Reforms to the Victorian parole system implemented by the Coalition included the new criminal offence, as parolees had previously not received an additional penalty for breaching their parole, other than the prospect of having to serve their outstanding sentence.
Critics of the previous system said this equated to offenders being given a “free hit”.
Crime Statistics Agency figures released to Fairfax Media reveal police issued 77 charges for breaching parole between July and December last year.
Offenders face a maximum penalty of three months jail and a $4200 fine.
The law gave police powers to arrest and charge a parolee for a breach of parole, such as drinking alcohol if a ban on drinking was in place, whether or not the breach involved a further criminal offence.
The Adult Parole Board can also cancel parole regardless of whether an offender has committed a breach of parole, or reoffended, if the parolee is considered at risk of offending.
The murder and rape of Ms Meagher by parolee Adrian Bayley in 2012 prompted an overhaul of the parole system, which has since been described as the toughest in Australia.
Criminal lawyer Rob Stary said the system was at the crossroads, with the discretion given to the Adult Parole Board undermined by the raft of new measures, and the decisions of the board lacking the transparency of those made in other states.
“We either have a system where we trust … a properly resourced parole board, or we have a system that subjects its decisions to judicial review.
“We’re caught between both worlds at the moment.”
Mr Stary said most of those charged with the new offence had also faced other charges. The sentence for breaching parole must be served on top of any other sentence.
He said the perception that the old system had given parolees a “free hit” was misplaced, as the Adult Parole Board could decide that the offender had to serve the remainder of their sentence, and the sentence for further offences could reflect that the offender had been on parole at the time of offending.
The Adult Parole Board said it was confident the reforms had improved the system. Fairfax Media reported last month that the board was yet to implement an electronic database, a key recommendation of a high-level review after Ms Meagher’s murder.
The other 22 recommendations made in the Callinan review have been implemented.
While not outlining how successful the reforms had been, a board spokeswoman said the process was more efficient and operations had been enhanced.
Corrections Minister Wade Noonan said on Wednesday, when three other review recommendations came into place, that the $84.1 million overhaul would keep communities safe but that the government would “stay vigilant to make sure the system works”.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.