Opposition promises to increase sentences for murder and other violent offences were hollow and ill-informed, Attorney General Joe Berinson said today.
Mr Berinson was commenting on reported statements by the shadow legal spokesperson for the Opposition, Cheryl Edwardes MLA.
"In calling for tougher penalties for crimes of violence, the Opposition is offering nothing new. It is simply following the lead the Government has already established, but in an ad hoc and undesirable way," Mr Berinson said.
"Mrs Edwardes has mistakenly referred to the existing non-parole periods for murder and wilful murder as being five years and ten years respectively. The Government increased those minimum terms in June 1988 to seven and twelve years."
Mr Berinson also expressed surprise at Mrs Edwardes' suggestion to replace the present 20-year minimum for strict security life sentences with a 30-year minimum, when the Government had already implemented the further alternative of whole of life sentences.
"In the last five years, penalties for every serious offence involving violence have been substantially increased by the Government. This includes penalties for wilful murder, which can now attract a literal whole of life sentence; for sexual assault, which is now punishable by up to 20 years and penalties for assaults on bus, taxi and train drivers, which have been increased from 18 months to five years," Mr Berinson said.
"Every one of these increases was with the support of the Opposition and without any suggestion that they should be increased further.
"It is important to stress in respect of wilful murder and murder that the periods referred to by the Opposition are minimum terms. In practice, many offenders are held for substantially longer periods.
"If we are to have a proper and fair system of justice, it is essential to maintain a discretion, especially by the courts, to take into account particular circumstances of individual cases.
"The Government has refused to follow the trend in other States which allows the possibility of much earlier release of convicted murderers than is possible in Western Australia. The Government would also not enter into an irresponsible public auction on the length of sentences in the way the Opposition has set out to do."