Judge: Koori Courts no softies, are effective

Oft-criticised for special treatment of Aboriginal offenders, the system could be even harsher than regular courts, says the judge.

There’s widespread perception that Koori Courts have bleeding hearts for the Aboriginal offenders that they try. Not only is that view wrong, the opposite might be the truth, a judge claimed.
“I honestly believe that when we first started, we were probably too harsh,” Judge John Smallwood said, according to the Sunraysia Daily. “I reckon we were overcompensating for that perception.”
Smallwood, the County Koori Court Judge in Charge in the regional area of the Latrobe Valley, was speaking at the launch of the Mildura County Koori Court last week.
“But statistically, jail sentences are no different. In fact, it might even be harsher. To say it’s a soft touch is nonsense,” he said.
“Realistically, the victims in County Koori Court get a better run than they do in mainstream for sure, (because) the bloke can’t sit and stare at the floor, they’ve got to deal with it.”
Smallwood also made it a point to highlight just how successful the system is.
According to the Sunraysia Daily, only two Koori offenders faced the County Court jurisdiction in Latrobe Valley in the past 18 months.
“When we first started every circuit, we’d do four or so a year, there’d be half a dozen,” the judge compared.
He said fewer and fewer people come through the courts now, greatly reducing recidivism.
Not only is the court lessens repeat offenders, it’s also diminishing the seriousness of offenses.

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