Judge for Yourself lets Queenslanders pass sentence

Media release

18 May 2017

Queenslanders can play the role of a judge or magistrate in a new interactive program designed to show the challenges of sentencing offenders in our courts.

Judge for Yourself is being launched during Law Week by the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council as part of its role to inform and engage the public on the complex nature of sentencing procedures in court.

Council member Dan Rogers, a defence lawyer, said: “Judge for Yourself shows there’s a lot more to sentencing than a headline—it’s complicated.”

The Judge for Yourself site gives Queenslanders the chance to hear the facts of three different court cases, based on real life events.

After selecting a case, users hear a news bulletin about the case before being given the opportunity to pass a sentence on the offender.

Then, users are asked to review the evidence, including dramatised footage from the scene of the offences and the courtrooms, before being asked to pass sentence again with their newfound knowledge.

A Magistrates Court hears about a young mother stealing from a corner shop; a District Court hears how a driver caused the death of a young girl after running a stop sign; and a Supreme Court hears of a drug dealer caught in an undercover police operation.

As users make their way through the interactive site, they get hints and guidance on the things judges and magistrates have to consider by law when they pass a sentence.

The council also hopes users will get a clearer understanding of the broader aims of sentencing, which are to punish, rehabilitate, deter, denounce and protect.

Mr Rogers said: “Sentencing makes our community safer. It is a rare opportunity to address someone’s behaviour and the underlying issues which led to the offences being committed.

“Sentencing is not just about locking people up and throwing away the key. It is a delicate balancing exercise. Everyone deserves a second chance and it’s up to our judges and magistrates to work out the best options for that to happen.”

In developing the program, the council used actual sentencing remarks from judges and then developed scripts in consultation with the Queensland Courts.

During the filming, police officers, bailiffs and correctional service officers got to play out their actual roles alongside actors and extras.

Mr Rogers added: “There is a lot of criticism of our sentencing courts but people don’t always understand the purposes of sentencing. If we put everyone in jail, it would not only be very costly to tax payers but also our communities.

Judge for Yourself is about starting the debate—are all offenders bad people or could there be circumstances in which the average person on the street gets themselves into a situation that lands them in court?”

The council hopes the program will also help the public to understand more about how the court system works, the roles of key people in the courtroom, and the different sentencing options available, such as fines, good behaviour bonds, parole, suspended sentences and imprisonment.

The Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council is running free live Judge for Yourself community sessions open to the public across the state during June and July 2017.

Law Week is an annual, national event which aims to foster a better understanding of the role law and justice plays in our society.