ALHR submission on mandatory minimum sentences for people smuggling

February 29, 2012

ALHR yesterday made a submission supporting a Bill that proposes to remove current provisions of the Migration Act which provide for minimum penalties for persons found guilty of aggravated people smuggling offences. The minimum penalties range from 5 to 8 years imprisonment.

The minimum mandatory sentencing regime has been widely criticised for its inhumane and disproportionate punishment of the least culpable and often vulnerable minor participants in what is a much larger enterprise.

In ALHR’s view, the mandatory minimum sentences in s.236B:
1. Are unnecessary, where sentences are already required to consider such factors as denunciation, general and specific deterrence in calibrating a just sentence
2. Limit judicial discretion to such an extent so as to virtually remove it from the sentencing process; and
3. Do so with the likely effect of imposing a sentence that offends the principle of proportionality.

By contrast, restoring discretion to apply sentence that are just in the circumstances of the case would enhance Australia’s compliance with the ICCPR, particularly Articles 9, 12, 14, and 26.