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Imprisonment (Qld)

When an adult is sentenced for criminal offences in Queensland, there are various custodial sentencing orders the court can make. Queensland courts can sentence adult offenders to a term of actual imprisonment, a suspended term of imprisonment or they can make an order that combines prison and a probation order. The sentencing of adults for criminal offences is done under the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992. Young people are sentenced under the Youth Justice Act 1991, under which different sentencing orders are available. This article outlines the custodial sentences available to courts when sentencing adults in Queensland.


When a person is sentenced to “actual” imprisonment, this means doing time in prison. The court must impose a term of imprisonment within the parameters of the legislative provisions for the offence. The term must be more than the minimum period set by the legislation and must not exceed the maximum period. A conviction is always recorded when a person is sentenced to imprisonment.

Intensive correction order

When a person is sentenced to less than one year of imprisonment in Queensland, the court can make an Intensive Correction Order. This means that the term is served in the community under the close supervision of the Department of Corrections and with strict conditions. Offenders are required to report to their supervisor regularly and may also be required to abide by other conditions, such as attending rehabilitation programs and/or counselling or performing community service.

Suspended sentence

When a person is sentenced to imprisonment for up to five years, the court may order that all or part of the term be suspended for a set period. If the offender commits an offence punishable by imprisonment during the suspension period, they will be ordered to serve the term of imprisonment as well as any further sentence imposed for the new offence.

Indefinite prison sentence

When an offender is sentenced for a serious violence or sex offence and the court considers that they pose a serious danger to the community if released, the court can order the person to be imprisoned indefinitely. This can be done based on the offender’s history, health or mental condition as well as the nature and circumstances of the offence and other circumstances.

A court can replace an indefinite prison sentence with an order for imprisonment for a finite term if it is satisfied that they are no longer a serious risk to the community if released.

Imprisonment with parole

When a court orders a person to serve a term of imprisonment, it is either required or allowed (depending on the offence) to set a parole release date or a parole eligibility date, on which the prisoner may apply to the Parole Board for release. 

If no parole date is set, a prisoner may apply for parole after they have completed half of the term of imprisonment. However, prisoners who have been sentenced for serious violence offences must serve 80% of their sentence or 15 years (whichever is less) before they may apply for parole.

Combined prison and probation order

Where it is appropriate, a court can impose a term of imprisonment for up to one year, immediately followed by a period of probation in the community for any period up to three years.

Mandatory sentences of imprisonment

When an offender is sentenced for murder or repeat child sex offences in Queensland, the court must sentence them to life imprisonment or to an indefinite prison sentence.

Sentencing principles

When sentencing a person for criminal offences, courts must take into account the following sentencing principles:

  • Deterrence, meaning the individual offender and the broader community are deterred from committing similar offences in the future;
  • Rehabilitation, meaning the offender is given the opportunity to avoid re-offending;
  • Denunciation, meaning a message is sent by the court that the offending is not tolerated;
  • Punishment, meaning the offender is punished to the extent that is justified in the circumstances;
  • Protection of the community.

Appealing a sentence

A person can appeal against a sentence that is imposed on them if they consider it unreasonably severe. The prosecution can appeal against a sentence if it considers the sentence to be too lenient. The Court of Appeal will then:

  • dismiss the appeal, so that the original sentence remains; or
  • allow the appeal, and increase, decrease or vary the sentence.

If you require legal advice in a criminal matter or in any other legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal. 

Fernanda Dahlstrom

This article was written by Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Arts and a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice. She has also completed a Master’s in Writing and Literature. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory and in family law in Queensland.

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