NT Supreme Court judge calls people smuggler law ‘dangerous’

Saturday, October 15th, 2011

A Northern Territory Supreme Court judge has criticised mandatory sentencing rules for people smugglers under the Migration Act.

Justice Jenny Blokland delivered an speech last night at the launch of the Northern Territory division of the lobby group ‘Australian Lawyers for Human Rights’.

Her Honour criticised a requirement for judges to impose mandatory three year jail terms on defendants convicted of people smuggling offences as a “dangerous” law that distorts the principles of sentencing.

Her Honour considered that the rule produces arbitrary rather than proportionate sentencing outcomes and applies, if the offence is proved, regardless of the actual culpability or other special circumstances of the offender.

Justice Blokland pointed to international jurisprudence under which it might be argued that mandatory jail terms are cruel and unusual punishment.

Treaty and other international law obligations do not automatically become part of the law in Australia but must be implemented through domestic legislation. They cannot be taken into account to invalidate laws.

The Northern Territory Supreme Court often sits on criminal cases in relation to people smuggling under the Migration Act.

Last month Justice Blokland found that there was insufficient evidence to support a conviction in the prosecution ofAhmad Ahman, an alleged people smuggler who was intercepted by authorities before he reached Australian waters.