Queensland Law Society

Mandatory sentencing a serious concern

Date 27 Oct 2010
Contact Celia Casey, Director Corporate Communication and Marketing
Phone 07 3842 5903
Mobile 0410 697 963
Fax 07 3221 9329
Email c.casey@qls.com.au

The Queensland Law Society today said it was seriously concerned by the Government’s recent announcement on the introduction of mandatory sentencing policy via the yet-to-be-established Sentencing Advisory Council.

Queensland Law Society President Peter Eardley said the Society objects to such a move as it aims to legislate non-parole periods for convicted offenders, removing the discretionary power of the courts in sentencing.

Mr Eardley also raised the issue of the difference between creating a sentencing advisory council as an awareness-raising and educational mechanism, and its newly-assumed role of directing critical policy changes.

“The council’s educational and engagement role is essential to building better relationships between the community, courts and government,” he said.

“However, this proposed extension to the role of the Advisory Council has not been previously canvassed, and goes far beyond advisory duties.

“Enabling the council to set mandatory sentencing is outside its intended jurisdiction – sentencing guidance sits squarely with the Court of Appeal.

“Such a proposal has significant negative repercussions on Queensland’s judicial and correction systems.

“Existing guidelines for judgement already in place ensure all circumstances are considered regarding how offenders are punished and how cases are managed.

“Queensland is well served by its judiciary; there is no basis for unnecessary and unreasonable fetters on discretion which has always been exercised appropriately,” Mr Eardley said.

Of the 7,298 indictable criminal matters heard by the Supreme and District Courts in 2009/10, sentences were only appealed by the defendant in 1.76% of cases.

Reinforcing how well current sentencing discretions are used is the fact that only 0.28% of cases were appealed by the State and Commonwealth Attorneys-General on behalf of the public in the same period.

“Any move to mandatory sentencing has the potential to undermine our judicial system and over-populate our corrections facilities, with skyrocketing costs for government,” he said.