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Thursday, 6 September 1984
Page: 559

Senator TEAGUE —My question is directed to the Attorney-General. I refer him to reports about decisions handed down by Judge Foord of the New South Wales District Court. Is it a fact that every appeal against Judge Foord's decisions has been upheld in a superior court in the last 12 months? Is it also true that Crown appeals against the adequacy of sentences, apart from Judge Foord's decisions, are fairly rare in New South Wales? Have any of the appeals been in regard to Federal charges and is the Attorney concerned about the judge's decisions inasmuch as they affect the Commonwealth?

Senator GARETH EVANS —I do not have any briefing immediately in front of me on this matter, but I certainly recall at least two or three matters in the last 18 months on which I have authorised appeals against sentences in relation to that judge. It is not a totally unusual occurrence for appeals against sentences to be initiated but it is unusual. I do not, however, draw any adverse inferences from that by virtue of the National Times article so far as the motivation that might lie behind that judge's sentencing practices. I think it is unfortunate that there has again been a degree of innuendo and imputations associated with it. There are, of course, people on the Bench-not very many of them-who adopt a very lenient approach to sentencing by virtue of their intense commitment to humanitarian principles and values as they see them and adjudicate accordingly.

I think what the whole business does point to is a number of problems in disuniformity in sentencing practice around Australia, indeed within jurisdictions, and the need for some speedy further work both to implement the work already done by the Australian Law Reform Commission on sentencing and also to follow up the further reference which I have recently given to that Commission to try to develop proper guidelines, better information flows, better practices and better procedures relating to sentencing generally.

Senator TEAGUE —Mr President, I have a supplementary question. Has the Attorney- General initiated any correspondence with respect to Judge Foord's decisions and the success of the appeals against his decisions?

Senator GARETH EVANS —Not that I can recall, other than in the context of the particular individual matters which have been the subject of appeal, but I will check the matter and advise Senator Teague if there is anything which might answer that description and which it is appropriate to put on the public record.