In what defies just about every legal principle upon which the much touted “free world” is established, the Australian government is set to introduce laws that keep people in jail even after they have served their jail terms.
The Turnbull government is moving ahead with planned new national laws to “allow the continued detention of jailed terrorists who still pose a risk” after their prison terms expire.
Key features of these developments:
- The laws have been heavily criticised by some legal experts.
- Would affect 9 prisoners being held in NSW and 4 in Victoria, while a further 46 people facing charges or trial could also be affected, including 23 in NSW, 11 in Victoria and two in Queensland.
- The plan would see high-risk terrorists held in prison in the same way some convicted paedophiles and extreme violent offenders remain behind bars after their sentence under “preventative measures”.
- Moves to extend a prisoner’s detention period would be decided by state and territory supreme courts, with a 3 year maximum for continuing detention orders.
- There would be no limit on the number of times an order could be renewed.
These startling developments come on the back of farcical “trial processes” for suspected terrorists who are often held without trial for extended periods. A case in point is the continued detention of Adam Brookman, who has never had his committal hearing nor gone to trial despite being detailed for one year.
These are, yet again, some of the harsh outcomes of a paranoid government’s ineptitude when it comes to the issue of “radicalisation” and “terror threats”.
Preventative detention changes would affect about 60 people charged or convicted over terror threat
At least 13 people currently serving jail time for high-level terrorism related convictions could be held indefinitely under legislation supported by federal and state attorneys-general in Canberra on Friday.
The Turnbull government is moving ahead with planned new national laws to allow the continued detention of jailed terrorists who still pose a risk after their prison terms expire.
The laws, criticised by some legal experts, could affect nine prisoners being held in NSW and four in Victoria, while a further 46 people facing charges or trial could also be affected, including 23 in NSW, 11 in Victoria and two in Queensland.
The plan, first announced in April, would see high-risk terrorists held in prison in the same way some convicted paedophiles and extreme violent offenders remain behind bars after their sentence under preventative measures.
Moves to extended a prisoner’s detention period would be decided by state and territory supreme courts, with a three year maximum for continuing detention orders.
There would be no limit on the number of times an order could be renewed, but Federal Attorney-General George Brandis said the currency and appropriateness of orders would be subject to review every 12 months.
Detainees could seek a review at any time on the basis of changed circumstances or facts.
The plan would see changes to the Commonwealth Criminal Code and be subject to review by the Federal Parliament’s joint committee on intelligence and security.
Other offences, including those designed to prevent Australians travelling overseas to fight with terrorist groups in foreign conflicts, would also be covered by the changes.
“All of the attorneys, as the first law officers of our respective jurisdictions, understand the gravity of the threat that terrorism poses to Australia and its people,” Senator Brandis said.
“This should not be a general feature of our criminal law and it isn’t. It should be a feature of our criminal law in those circumstances and subject to the safeguards… where there can be a reasonably high level of assurance because of the nature of the offence and the type of offender that there is an unacceptably high risk to the community.”
The government has sought to introduce the laws in the wake of recent terror attacks in Orlando and Nice, addressing key concerns of police and security agencies about terrorists convicted in the post-September 11 era and who are due to be released in coming years.
NSW Attorney-General Gabrielle Upton said the case of rioter and suspected extremist Ahmad Elomar, who was released from Goulburn prison this week after serving almost three years of a 4½-year sentence for bashing a police officer, was outside the proposed scheme.
She said Mr Elomar’s parole conditions were “stringent” and effectively addressed community concerns about his release.
“The stakes are high for NSW, make no mistake. We have more people in our prison than any other state that would be subject to these laws,” Ms Upton said.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Labor would consider the legislation.
“If you have someone in jail, convicted of terrorism offences… the system can’t just simply release them at the end of that process of their sentence without having good examination if it is safe to do so,” he said.
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