Northe Case Highlights Need For Criminal Justice Reform

Written by:
26 October 2023
Northe Case Highlights Need For Criminal Justice Reform - Featured image

“Russell Northe has broken the law, abused his position of power for financial gain and should be punished harshly. However, the punishment should be a severe financial penalty rather than incarceration.” said Mia Schlicht, Research Analyst at the Institute of Public Affairs.

On Wednesday, former Victorian State MP Russell Northe was sentenced to 21 months in prison by the Victorian County Court after pleading guilty to misconduct in public office offences involving financial wrongdoing.

Instead of being incarcerated, Mr Northe should be subject to the offender super-taxation levy, developed by world-leading sentencing expert, Professor Mirko Bagaric of Swinburne University.

“Incarcerating Mr Northe means Victorians will again be forced to pay for his crimes by funding his imprisonment for almost two years,” said Ms Schlicht.

In Victoria, it costs $196,200 to house one prisoner for one year. This means, in addition to the approximately $180,000 misappropriated by Mr Northe, taxpayers will also pay over $343,000 to incarcerate him, which is more than double the amount originally stolen from them.

“Mr Northe deserves no special privileges because of his former office, but his case demonstrates the wastefulness of incarcerating those who pose little ongoing threat to the community,” said Ms Schlicht.

“Instead of locking him away at great expense, he should be made to repay the funds stolen and then some in the form of an offender taxation levy. There should be additional conditions imposed upon him to restrict his liberty such as home detention.”

The offender super-taxation levy would operate so that two-thirds of all income derived by the offender would be payable as taxation. The total payable would be double the amount wrongfully obtained by the offender. In addition to this, the offender would be required to pay a one-off fine equal to the amount wrongfully obtained by the offender.

Under this model, Mr Northe should be required to pay a total of $540,000 back to the taxpayer rather being sentenced to jail.

“Each year Victorian taxpayers are spending over half a billion dollars on the incarceration of low-risk, non-violent offenders, who pose a limited threat to community safety. Prisons should be reserved for violent criminals who are a threat to community safety,” said Ms Schlicht.

The Institute of Public Affairs has been leading criminal justice reform research for close to a decade.

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