Law and poverty 40 years after the Sackville Report | Law

Law and poverty 40 years after the Sackville Report

Vicki Sentas and Professor Brendan Edgeworth speak to ABC Radio National, Law Report (16 May 2017) regarding the release of their new book Law and Poverty in Australia: 40 Years after the Poverty Commission.

Vicki Sentas discussed the original Poverty Commission report saying, “For Sackville, the criminal law and the over criminalisation of poor people was one of the central drivers of his report, the offences of fragrancy being drunk in a public place. These were overused and they were a key reason of why we saw so many poor people in prisons at the time. These state based offences were in existence all around the country”.

"One of the key things the Sackville report successfully did was initiate a program of reform, which began in the late 70s, which saw these offences repealed. At the time, they were amongst the more obvious ways in which police exercised their discretion against poor people, we also had offences criminalising begging, fortune telling and busking. Then also at the same time, we had people being imprisoned for fines, and that was another key concern”.

Professor Edgeworth spoke about the state of the housing industry at the time, “Tenants had no or very few formal statutory rights. The lease that they would typically sign would be a weekly tenancy, which meant that the landlords could terminate it just by giving a week’s notice effectively”.

“It was particularly difficult for tenants to access the courts if there were disputes. The research that I’ve done in relation to disputes that arose in the Waverly district area in Sydney, around Bondi and down to La Perouse… No tenants in the space of nineteen years accessed the courts to bring actions against landlords and the local courts functioned as agencies for landlords to get possession of premises”.

Listen to the full Radio National interview here.