Sentencing Spotlights on murder and manslaughter in Queensland

Media release

21 April 2017

All 189 murderers charged as an adult in Queensland over the last 11 years have been given life sentences.

Offenders charged with manslaughter averaged eight years in prison—but all 224 offenders received a custodial penalty.

For the first time, the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council (QSAC) has collated and published data on sentencing outcomes for the offences of murder and manslaughter finalised in Queensland courts through its Sentencing Spotlights series.

QSAC member Assistant Commissioner Tracy Linford said: “You tend to only hear snippets about the sentencing through headlines. These Sentencing Spotlights summarise what sentences are being received by offenders for these offences so people can understand the whole sentencing process including details on what the offence is, offender characteristics, types of sentences received and how offenders plea.”

The Sentencing Spotlights look at sentencing outcomes between 1 July 2005 and 30 June 2016. They reveal for both murder and manslaughter the majority of offenders were known to the victim in some way—mostly a non-family member such as a friend, neighbour or work colleague, followed by an intimate or former partner.

Offenders charged with murder were most likely to plead not guilty (72.3%) whereas those on a manslaughter charge were most likely to plead guilty (75.5%).

“This can be explained by the fact that adults found guilty of murder receive a mandatory sentence of life in prison and people obviously won’t get a sentencing advantage from pleading guilty early,” said Ms Linford.

“For offenders found, or who plead, guilty to manslaughter the maximum penalty is life in prison but this is not mandatory so judges can take into account any mitigating circumstances of the offending when imposing the sentence.”

The average age of murderers at the time of sentencing was 37-years-old, this decreased slightly to 34.3-years-old for those charged with manslaughter. There were 10 children sentenced for murder; four of whom were dealt with as adults. And there were eight children sentenced for manslaughter—one of whom was female.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders were over-represented as offenders sentenced for murder—for both males and females—accounting for 18.5% of offenders despite representing 3.8% of the population. For manslaughter it was the same, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders accounting for 21.4 per cent of all offenders sentenced for manslaughter.

“As a council, the priority focus throughout our work is to contribute to efforts to understand and address the drivers of over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Queensland’s criminal justice system,” said Ms Linford.

View Sentencing Spotlight on…murder (PDF 808KB)

View Sentencing Spotlight on…manslaughter (PDF 752KB)