Concurrent and Cumulative Sentences (Qld)
In Queensland, courts often sentence offenders for two or more offences at the same time. This may be because several offences arose out of the same incident or because offences committed on different occasions are being dealt with at the same time. In this situation, the court may impose terms of imprisonment in respect of more than one offence. These terms may be ordered to be served concurrently or cumulatively. This page deals with concurrent and cumulative sentences in Queensland.
The Penalties and Sentences Act 1992 governs whether terms of imprisonment are to be served concurrently or cumulatively in Queensland.
Under section 155 of the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992, when a court imposes a sentence of imprisonment on a person who is already serving, or has been sentenced to serve, a term of imprisonment for another offence, the terms are to be served concurrently unless the court orders otherwise.
When a term of imprisonment is concurrent with another term of imprisonment, both terms are served at the same time. For example, if an offender is sentenced to five months imprisonment for the first offence and 10 months imprisonment for the second offence, the total effective sentence would be 10 months imprisonment.
Under section 156 of the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992, when an offender is serving, or has been sentenced to serve a term of imprisonment, and a court imposes a custodial term for another offence, the court may order that the sentences be cumulative.
When a term of imprisonment is cumulative on another term, the second term is served after the first term has been completed. For example, if a person is sentenced to five months imprisonment for Offence 1 and ten months for Offence 2, the total effective sentence would be 15 months imprisonment.
When imprisonment must be cumulative
Under section 156A of the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992, a term of imprisonment must be served cumulatively on any other sentence of imprisonment that has been imposed on the offender if:
- The person is convicted of a schedule 1 offence; or
- The person is convicted of counselling or procuring a schedule 1 offence; and
- The offence is committed while the person is a prisoner serving a sentence; or
- The offence is committed while the person is released on post-prison community-based release; or
- The offence is committed while the person is on leave of absence from a term of imprisonment; or
- The offence is committed while the person is at large after escaping from lawful custody.
How courts decide whether sentence is concurrent or cumulative
When a court imposes a term of imprisonment for an offence that does not fall under section 156A, it may order the term to be served cumulatively on another sentence.
In deciding whether to order that a sentence be cumulative on another sentence, courts consider a number of factors including:
- Whether the offences are of a similar nature
- Whether the offences were committed against the same victim
- Whether the offences arose out of one criminal enterprise
- Whether offences that were committed during the same episode are of a similar nature.
If the offending involves significant violence on two or more distinct and separate occasions, or where the victim of the offences is different, the court will generally order at least part of the sentence to be served cumulatively.
The totality principle
When a court sentences a person for multiple offences, the aggregate sentence that it hands down must be ‘just and appropriate’ to the totality of the offending. As well as ensuring the sentence imposed for each offence is fair and proportionate, the court must ensure that the overall sentence is not too harsh or too lenient.
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