Mandatory Sentencing (Qld)
When Queensland courts sentence offenders, they generally have a wide discretion as to the sentencing orders they make. Court assess the appropriate penalty based on the objective seriousness of the offence and the surrounding circumstances including the person’s prior criminal history. However, some offences in Queensland carry mandatory sentences. These are minimum sentences that courts must impose regardless of the individual situation. This page deals with mandatory sentencing in Queensland.
Rationale for mandatory sentencing
Many Australian jurisdictions have mandatory sentencing provisions. These provisions are designed to ensure that serious offending is dealt with in a way that will be regarded as adequately by the general community.
However, mandatory sentencing is often criticised as inflexible and interfering in the exercise of judicial discretion. Many people argue that mandatory sentencing provisions are arbitrary and lead to unfair sentencing outcomes as they prevent judicial officers from taking into account mitigating factors.
Mandatory life imprisonment
Some offences in Queensland carry a mandatory sentence of imprisonment for life.
Under section 305 of the Criminal Code 1899, a person who is found guilty of murder in Queensland must be sentenced to life imprisonment.
If an offender is found guilty of more than one count of murder, a minimum non-parole period of 30 years applies.
If the victim of the murder was a police officer, a minimum non-parole period of 25 years applies.
Repeat serious child sex offences
Under section 161E of the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992, when an adult is found guilty of a serious child sex offence and they have a prior conviction for a serious child sex offence while an adult, there is a mandatory sentence of imprisonment for life.
Serious violence offences
Under Part 9A of the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992, if a person is convicted of a Schedule 1 offence and sentenced to more than 10 years imprisonment, the court must declare them to have been convicted of a serious violence offence.
The court may declare a person to have been convicted of a serious violence offence if they are convicted of a Schedule 1 offence and the court imposes a sentence of between five and ten years imprisonment. Schedule 1 offences include child sex offences, rape, burglary, attempted murder and serious assaults.
A person who has been convicted of a serious violence offence must serve 80% of their sentence (or 15 years, whichever is less) before they become eligible for parole. This means that the court has no discretion to decide how long the offender must remain in prison before being able to apply for parole. This means that a person who is sentenced under these laws is likely to spend much more time in jail before becoming eligible for parole than if these laws did not exist.
Mandatory sentence of community service
In Queensland, when certain offences are committed when the offender is intoxicated, the court must impose community serviceas part of the penalty. Offences that carry mandatory community service when alcohol or drugs is a factor include assault, wounding and grievous bodily harm.
The mandatory community service provisions were introduced in 2014 as part of the Safe Night Out Legislation Amendment Bill. This amendment aimed at stamping out alcohol- and drug-related violence.
Mandatory licence disqualification
Some driving offences in Queensland attract a mandatory period of disqualification from driving. The minimum period of licence disqualification depends on the offence and the person’s driving record.
Offences that carry mandatory licence disqualification include dangerous driving, drink driving offences and drug driving offences.
Court can order longer than the mandatory sentence
Mandatory sentencing laws prescribe the minimum sentence that courts must impose. When a mandatory sentencing provision applies, the court can impose a longer sentence, but not a shorter one.
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