Victoria’s “civil libertarian” judges are to blame for youth violence, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton says, but he won’t say if his government will offer any funding to help the state out.
A series of recent high-profile crimes involving youths of African appearance, including assaults, brawls, armed robberies and home invasions in suburban Melbourne, has sparked criticism of the Victorian government’s policies.
But while police have been very clear “this is not a crisis”, Mr Dutton blamed the state government for the appointment of judges he says are handing out slaps on the wrist.
“If you’re appointing civil libertarians to the Magistrates Court over a long period of time then you’re going to get softer sentences,” Mr Dutton told 3AW on Friday.
He refused to answer questions about whether Canberra would provide funding to help, after Victoria said money for migrant services had been repeatedly cut for years.
Mr Dutton wouldn’t say whether the judges he blames for being soft on crime should be replaced.
“I’m not suggesting the judiciary be cleaned out, I’m saying have a look at some of the appointments (Premier) Daniel Andrews has made,” he said.
But the Law Institute of Victoria said it was “extremely concerned” by ongoing political attacks on Victoria’s legal profession.
“The community can have absolute trust in the judiciary and the legal profession in Victoria,” the institute said in response to Mr Dutton.
Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Andrew Crisp said talk of a “crisis” among the state’s African community was wrong.
“There is not a crisis in this state in relation to crime, or the behaviour we’re seeing of a relatively small number of people of African background,” Mr Crisp told the ABC.
Mr Crisp said there had been a spike in anti-social behaviour over the holidays.
That includes a riot where more than 100 youths of Caucasian appearance ran wild in Torquay on January 4, injuring a police officer.
Mr Andrews said there had been some “nasty” incidents but he was confident Victoria Police is turning it around.
Victoria’s new African-Australian community task force is meeting on Friday for the first time to launch its mission to prevent youth crime and ease racial tensions.