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This article was written by Sally Crosswell

Sally Crosswell has a Bachelor of Laws (Hons), a Bachelor of Communication and a Master of International and Community Development. She also completed a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice at the College of Law. A former journalist, Sally has a keen interest in human rights law.

Sentencing Councils


A sentencing council is an independent body, formed under legislation, designed to help promote consistency in sentencing by informing, educating and advising the public, government and the courts. Each council is made up of people from a wide range of professional and community backgrounds who consult with the public to promote acceptance and understanding of the sentencing process. This article outlines sentencing councils in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.

Victoria

Victoria’s Sentencing Advisory Council was established in 2004 by amendments to the Sentencing Act 1991.

Functions

The Act sets out that the functions of the council are to:

  • provide its views to the Court of Appeal about the giving or review of a guideline judgment;
  • provide statistics on sentencing, including sentencing practices, to courts and the public;
  • research and provide information on sentencing matters to courts and the public;
  • gauge public opinion on sentencing matters;
  • advise the Attorney-General on sentencing matters.

These functions can be exercised inside or outside Victoria.

The council can engage consultants in a paid or honorary capacity.

Membership

The Act dictates that the board of the council is made up of 11 to 14 directors. Of the directors:

  • 2 must have, in the Attorney-General’s opinion, broad experience in community issues affecting courts;
  • 1 must have experience as a senior academic at a tertiary institution;
  • 1 must be a member of a victim of crime support or advocacy group;
  • 1 must be a manager of a victim of crime support or advocacy group, and a victim of crime or a victim of crime representative;
  • 1 must be a police officer ranked senior sergeant or below and active in criminal law enforcement;
  • 1 must be, in the Attorney-General’s opinion, a highly experienced prosecution lawyer;
  • 1 must be, in the Attorney-General’s opinion, a highly experienced defence lawyer;
  • the remainder must have experience in the operation of the criminal justice system.

Directors serve a term of up to 3 years and are eligible for reappointment. A director’s office become vacant if they resign, are removed, or are convicted of an indictable offence (a serious offence where the accused has the right to have the matter heard in a higher court before a judge and jury).

New South Wales

The New South Wales Sentencing Council was established in 2003 by amendments to the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999. It advises the Attorney-General on sentencing matters.

Functions

The Act sets out that the functions of the council are to:

  • advise and consult with the Attorney-General on standard non-parole periods and on guideline judgements;
  • monitor and report annually on sentencing trends and practices;
  • prepare research papers and reports on sentencing matters at the request of the Attorney-General;
  • educate the public on sentencing matters.

In sentencing matters, the council works with the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research of the Department of Communities and Justice, and the Judicial Commission of NSW.

Membership

The Act dictates that the board of the council is to have 16 members, of whom:

  • 1 is to be a retired judicial officer (not a magistrate) such as a judge or tribunal president;
  • 1 is to be a retired magistrate;
  • 1 is to have expertise or experience in law enforcement;
  • 4 are to have expertise or experience in criminal law or sentencing (with 1 in prosecution and 1 in defence);
  • 1 is to have expertise or experience in Aboriginal justice matters;
  • 4 are to represent the general community (with 2 to have expertise or experience in victims of crime matters);
  • 1 is to have expertise or experience in corrective services;
  • 1 is to have expertise or experience in juvenile justice;
  • 1 is to be from the Department of Justice;
  • 1 is to have academic or research expertise or experience in the functions of the council.

A member holds office for a term of up to 3 years. An office of a member become vacant if a member dies, completes their term, resigns, is removed, misses 4 meetings in a row, becomes bankrupt, becomes mentally incapacitated or is convicted of an offence that carries a prison term of 12 months or more.

Queensland

Queensland’s Sentencing Advisory Council was established in 2016 by amendments to the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992.

Functions

The Act sets out that the functions of the council are to:

  • provide the Court of Appeal with the council’s views about a guideline judgment;
  • advise the Attorney-General on sentencing matters;
  • to educate the community on sentencing matters;
  • to research sentencing matters and publish the research;
  • to obtain community views on sentencing matters.

The council can consult with, and seek information from the courts, government and other entities.

Membership

The Act dictates the council is to be made up of up to 12 members, at least 1 of whom must be an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person. The members must have expertise or experience relevant to the council, including in areas such as:

  • victims of crime;
  • justice matters related to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people;
  • justice matters related to domestic and family violence;
  • vulnerable people facing the criminal justice system;
  • law enforcement;
  • crime prevention;
  • criminal prosecution;
  • criminal defence;
  • corrective services;
  • juvenile justice;
  • criminal justice policy;
  • criminology.

Members serve a term of up to 3 years. A member’s office becomes vacant if they resign, or their appointment is terminated due to incapacity, a conviction for a serious offence, or if duties are neglected or performed incompetently or inefficiently.

Foe advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

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