Mandatory sentences

A mandatory (fixed) sentence is one set by Parliament.

Usually, when sentencing someone, judges and magistrates can decide what sentence to give.

However, a mandatory sentence is one that the judge or magistrate must give to someone who has committed a certain offence.

Queensland has different types of mandatory sentences:

  • Mandatory life imprisonment for murder or a repeat serious child sex offence (see life sentence).
  • Mandatory driver licence disqualification periods for certain traffic offences.
  • A mandatory sentence that a court must give to someone committing a certain offence, but where the court can decide how long the sentence will be (for example, if a person commits an offence such as assault, wounding or grievous bodily harm in public while drunk or affected by drugs, a court must give them a community service order (unless the person has a condition which means they can’t comply) but can decide how many hours of community work the person must do).
  • A mandatory amount of time someone must serve in prison before they can be released on parole.

Usually, a mandatory sentence sets a minimum sentence. A court can still give a longer sentence up to, and including, the maximum penalty, if it thinks this is appropriate.

Sometimes, it is also mandatory for a court to order that prison sentences be served one after the other (cumulatively), and not at the same time (concurrently).

If a court declares a person convicted of a serious violent offence, the person must serve 80 per cent of their sentence (or 15 years, whichever is less) in prison before being able to be released on parole.

Offences include:

  • violent offences (such as manslaughter, grievous bodily harm, wounding, torture, robbery, dangerous operation of a vehicle, serious assault, and assault occasioning bodily harm)
  • sexual offences (such as rape, incest, and indecent treatment of children under 16)
  • drug offences (such as trafficking and serious charges of supplying or producing a dangerous drug).

Being convicted of one of these offences does not always mean the scheme applies.

There are two ways it can apply:

  1. it is mandatory if someone commits one of these offences and is sentenced to 10 years or more
  2. a judge can make a declaration, but doesn’t have to, for a person who commits one of these offences and
  • is sentenced to 5 years or more but less than 10 years or
  • gets a sentence of any length, as long as the offence involved the use or attempted use of serious violence against another person or resulted in serious harm to another person.

We recently reviewed this scheme and made 26 recommendations to improve it.

This information is not intended to provide legal advice and has been prepared for the purposes of providing information only. While all reasonable care has been taken in the preparation of this information, no liability is assumed for any errors or omissions.