cfsmtb in low earth orbit

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Why offenders must be punished for their crimes

Letters -

"I read with interest your editorial, "When jail is not the right answer" (The Age, 16/9). It seems to miss a significant aspect of our judicial system.

Our system exists not only to punish offenders who are convicted of an offence, but to deter others from undertaking similar activities. One could well suggest that the deterrent value is of more benefit to our society than the actual punishment imposed on offenders.

I cite in particular the case of Silvia Nicole Ciach, the young woman referred to in the editorial, who killed a cyclist on Portarlington Road in December 2001 while she was using her mobile telephone. This activity is endemic on our roads. As a cyclist, I am concerned that letting the killer off - essentially scot-free by giving her a non-custodial sentence - sends a message to other drivers that piloting a lethal weapon in a grossly negligent manner is not a big deal.

Ms Ciach may very well feel very remorseful, as your editorial states, but that does not send a clear message to other drivers that they should concentrate on driving their cars, rather than play with their telephones and thus increase the risk of injury and death for other road users.

Certainly it is important to view each case on an individual basis, which is why our legal system is structured as it is, rather than having arbitrary and mandatory sentencing and all the injustice that that entails.

However, it is also important to broaden the scope of this editorial argument to take into consideration the effects that such a high profile case has upon the behaviour of would-be offenders.

The law is not just about one offender; it is about protecting everyone.

In any case, the families of victims should have no say at any point in the sentencing of an offender. They are in no state to influence the path of justice. We no longer live in the stone age."

Carl Brewer, Brighton