A bill is expected to pass parliament today that would abolish a long-standing right of appeal, despite opposition from the Victorian Greens and independents.
The Justice Legislation Amendment (Criminal Appeals) Bill 2019 removes the right of “de novo” appeals against sentences and convictions in the Magistrates’ and Children’s courts.
People will no longer be able to appeal their sentences unless they have a special reason like a legal error. Their cases will then heard by the County Court.
De novo appeals act as a safety net against injustice and give over-worked duty lawyers the confidence to achieve speedy resolutions in cases.
Victorian Greens Spokesperson for Justice, Dr Tim Read, said that de novo appeals provided those convicted of a crime with superior access to justice in a thinly stretched system.
As stated by Dr Tim Read, Victorian Greens Spokesperson for Justice:
“The court system and its workforce are facing unprecedented demand pressures and case backlogs, while more than a third of people in our prisons are still awaiting trial.
“More and more Victorians are appearing in court without adequate legal representation, with legal aid overburdened and in some years operating in annual financial deficit.
“If the Victorian Labor Government is going to go against expert advice and make a fundamental change to the operation of criminal law in this state, it should get this reviewed by the Law Reform Commission.
“By abolishing de novo appeals with no compelling evidence as to why, the Government is just creating more barriers to justice and vulnerable communities will be those most affected.”