Earlier this month Calvary Christian College student Taylor Birtchnell was awarded first prize in the 2015 Griffith Law School and Short Punch and Greatorix (SP&G) Gold Coast Legal Essay Writing Competition.

Taylor’s essay ‘Criminal Law: Drugs and Inadequate Sentencing’ edged out a competitive field of more than 20 entrants with her analysis of drug sentencing practices.

Griffith Law School academic and competition judge Dr Edwin Bikundo says he was impressed with the depth and breadth of her legal research.

“The quality of Taylor’s legal analysis really stood out from the rest. She used case law, parliamentary reports and sociological materials to make her argument,” says Dr Bikundo.

Taylor says she was motivated by Australia’s ‘ice epidemic’ to write about whether criminal law sentencing was keeping pace with community expectations.

“At the moment it is not quite harsh enough and it doesn’t reflect the severity of these crimes,” Taylor says.

“Our legal textbook says sentencing of criminals should reflect community sentiment and I think in the past few years community sentiment has changed and the law needs to change with it.”

She says mandatory sentences with fixed minimum or maximum terms are not the answer.

“Judges should still be able to maintain their discretion in specific cases, but they need stricter guidelines,” says Taylor.

The Gold Coast Legal Essay Writing Competition is run in partnership with law firm Short, Punch and Greatorix (SP&G) to encourage high school students to consider a career in law.

SP&G partner Martin Punch OAM and Griffith Law School Dean Professor Pene Mathew presented trophies and cash prizes to the winner and the runner-ups at SP&G’s Gold Coast Law Chambers.

Professor Pene Mathew is pleased by the growing number of high school’s participating in the competition and encourages others to participate next year.

Runner up winners

Merrimac State High School student Esther Lammers for her essay, ‘Should Australia’s Surrogacy Laws be Ammended to Legalise Commercial Surrogacy in Australia?

Somerset College student Jacinda Gray for her essay, ‘The Current Approach to the Sentencing of Child Sex Offenders does not Adequately Satisfy the Needs and Rights of all Principal Stakeholders’.