Gunnedah Shire Council to crack down on crime

Cr Colleen Fuller.
Cr Colleen Fuller.

A GUNNEDAH councillor is spearheading a crackdown on criminals as she calls for harsher penalties. 

Cr Colleen Fuller is putting forward a motion at Wednesday’s council meeting that it “advocates that the NSW government calls on the judiciary to impose tougher sentencing for crimes involving assault, domestic violence, break/enter and steal, malicious damage, and fraud”.

Cr Fuller said crime had dropped in the Gunnedah region thanks to the collaborative efforts of Gunnedah Shire Council, police, the local liquor accord and the wider community – but there was still a way to go.

The latest snapshot from the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) shows Gunnedah has seen a significant drop in crime, with break-and-enters to homes and businesses almost halving, while the rates of malicious damage and thefts also dropped.

“Our crime has reduced (which) is really, really good, but we do have a problem with drugs and domestic violence,” Cr Fuller said.

“I’m not saying that’s top of the ladder, but we want to see we’re knocking things down.”

Cr Fuller hoped future funding would continue in order to carry out further crime prevention efforts, including CCTV and more CBD lighting. Cr Fuller said community sentiment suggested some criminals were getting off  “too lightly” when it came to domestic violence and drugs, pointing to the Section 10 dismissal of charges and conditional discharge.

But Oxley police last fortnight praised vigilance from the community, and attributed increased security and officers targeting known suspects as the reason BOCSAR crime rates fell in Gunnedah in the 12 months to March this year. Domestic violence-related assaults were one of the only crime categories that saw an increase with 20 more incidents reported to total 79 in the 12 months to March this year.

Acting Magistrate Mal MacPherson moved to allay community concerns, by reminding them a court could only hand down a sentence based on the facts tendered to that case.

“Judicial officers can’t just pluck (a punishment), they have to follow sentencing laws, and that’s not only punishment, but also rehabilitation,” he said.

“If the prosecution feels a sentence is inadequate, they have the right to appeal, just as much as the defence has the right to appeal.”

Mr MacPherson, a major proponent for Youth Insearch at Lake Keepit, insists harsher penalties aren’t always the answer to stopping repeat offenders. Councillors will vote on the matter tomorrow afternoon.