Annual Report 2016-17

The Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council annual report 2016–17 outlines our key achievements, our performance, our people, our governance and future direction.

Year in review

  • Attorney-General appointed 10 Council members on 11 November 2016
  • Recruited and inducted 11 Secretariat staff
  • Delivered a report to the Attorney-General on the classification of child exploitation material (CEM) for sentencing purposes
  • Launched interactive website Judge for Yourself enabling the community to walk in a judge’s shoes to sentence offenders in real-life court cases
  • Established data agreements with Queensland Police Service, Queensland Courts and Queensland Corrective Services
  • Hosted 2 Sentencing Seminars: Evidence-based sentencing; Shaping the sentencing agenda
  • Launched the Sentencing Matters podcast series and released 3 episodes
  • Released 3 Sentencing Spotlights looking at the offences of murder, manslaughter and child exploitation material
  • Launched Twitter and Facebook social media platforms
  • Held face-to-face meetings with key stakeholders explaining our key role and responsibilities
  • Established the National Sentencing Network providing a discussion forum for professional practitioners and academics concerned with sentencing issues
  • Held 2 internal Research to Practice forums with policy makers.

Case study—Classification of child exploitation material for sentencing purposes

A review of the classification of CEM for sentencing purposes was referred to the Council by the Attorney-General on 22 November 2016, with the final report due by 31 May 2017.

The Council addressed the terms of reference by:

  • obtaining and analysing data from Queensland Police Service, Queensland Court Services and Queensland Corrective Services
  • undertaking public and targeted consultation with content experts and stakeholders in Queensland, all Australian jurisdictions and internationally
  • conducting a literature review and sentencing remark analyses.

The Council released a consultation paper on 13 March 2017 seeking submissions from the public. The Council conducted face-to-face meetings and engaged in written consultation with stakeholders.

On 28 April 2017, the Council held a roundtable with representatives from state and federal law enforcement agencies, prosecution bodies, government policy makers and the legal sector to test the review’s draft recommendations. This was the first time all of these content experts and practitioners had been brought together at the same time to discuss the issue. Participants discussed matters which cause tension due to the sometimes competing roles and resource priorities of stakeholders. This interactive approach built on meetings held with individual stakeholders in the lead up to the roundtable which confirmed the issues in contention.

This participative process was of great assistance to the Council, allowing for frank and immediate exchange of views among the various stakeholders and an open discussion about their respective expertise, experience and roles. Further crucial issues were identified, leading to additional consultation. These issues may not have been identified without the roundtable, which, coupled with the lead-in consultation process, proved to be most valuable. The Council intends to use this approach in future projects.

The Council reported to the Attorney-General on 31 May 2017.

Case study—Judge for Yourself

To support community understanding of the sentencing process, the Council created the Judge for Yourself interactive website. It gives the community the chance to step into the judge or magistrate’s shoes and to appreciate that there is more to sentencing than a headline. Judge for Yourself helps participants think about the whole sentencing process — beyond the headlines.

The Judge for Yourself site provides Queenslanders with the chance to hear the facts of three different court cases, based on real-life events. A Magistrates Court hears about a young mother who unlawfully takes goods from a corner store; the District Court hears how a driver caused the death of a young girl; and the Supreme Court hears of a drug dealer caught in an undercover police operation. After selecting a case, users see a news bulletin before being asked to sentence the offender. After that, users review the evidence, including dramatised footage from the scene of the offence and the courtroom, before being asked to pass sentence again with their newfound knowledge. The sentence imposed by the user is then compared to the actual sentence that was delivered in the case.

As they make their way through the interactive site, participants get hints and guidance on the things judges and magistrates are required to consider by law when they pass a sentence. The initiative aims to provide users with a clearer understanding of the broader aims of sentencing. Participants are also given the opportunity to provide feedback, enabling the Council to gauge public opinion on sentencing.

Launched in Law Week on 18 May 2017, Judge for Yourself is being used as the basis for education sessions on sentencing.