A QUARTER of all criminals convicted of trafficking in a commercial quantity of drugs last year were not sentenced to jail.
The average non-parole period for those who were jailed for the offence - which carries a maximum of 25 years' jail - was only 2 1/2 years.
The average non-parole term for trafficking in a large commercial quantity - maximum sentence, life imprisonment - was less than 4 1/2 years.
Police and crime victims said the sentencing figures made a joke of the justice system.
Police Association secretary Sen-Sgt Greg Davies said they reinforced the union's call for mandatory minimum terms in serious criminal cases.
How anybody could receive a suspended sentence for an offence that carries a maximum of life imprisonment beggars belief, he said.
You can make the maximum as high as you like, but unless there is a mandatory minimum you're going to get this sort of farcical situation where people can traffic commercial quantities of drugs and get less than 10 per cent non-parole sentences.
It ridicules the community at large and the people whose job it is to get these people who prey on our children off our streets, he said.
In 2008-09, 29 people were sentenced for trafficking in a commercial quantity of drugs - the lowest number in the past five years.
Nineteen were sentenced to jail and three others given partly suspended terms. Five received wholly suspended sentences, one a suspended sentence and a fine, and one a good behaviour bond.
Non-parole terms for 141 offenders jailed in 2004-09 ranged from six months to 11 years.
Crime Victims Support Association president Noel McNamara said the County Court penalties were no deterrent whatsoever.
Given the stakes they play for, it's atrocious that people who peddle death can get suspended sentences and spend no time in jail, he said.
And what's the point of fining them, when they can make that sort of money in five minutes?
The Sentencing Advisory Council statistics showed an average fine of $1036 for the 22 commercial traffickers fined as part of their sentence during the past five years.
Of 67 offenders sentenced to jail in 2004-09 for trafficking in a large commercial quantity of drugs, only three got a minimum of more than 10 years.
The threshold quantities for large commercial quantities of drugs are 1kg of cut cocaine, heroin or amphetamines, or 750g pure.
The limits for a commercial quantity are 250g of pure cocaine or heroin (500g cut), and 100g of amphetamines.
Attorney-General Rob Hulls announced recently that wholly suspended sentences for serious offences involving violence and sex crimes would be abolished from July next year.
But commercial and large commercial drug trafficking are not currently classed as serious offences under Sentencing Act provisions.
July 07, 2010
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