QSAC calls for new sentencing framework

Media release

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Queensland courts should have a new sentencing option – a Community Correction Order – as part of a package of reforms to ensure justice is delivered effectively, the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council has found.

The phased introduction of Community Correction Orders (CCOs) is one of 74 recommendations made by the Council after an 18-month review at the request of the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Yvette D’Ath.

The final report Community-based sentencing orders, imprisonment and parole options has been released today.

CCOs would replace community service orders and probation in the short-term, and Intensive Correction Orders in the longer term.

The Council has found CCOs would give judges and magistrates the flexibility to tailor a sentence to the individual circumstances of both the offender and the offence, and provide adequate supervision for offenders in the community.

“This is a significant reform required to streamline the restrictive and sometimes inflexible range of orders currently available to the courts,” Chair John Robertson said.

“After 18 months of research and consultation, it has become clear that a more effective option for Queensland is a system that provides maximum flexibility for a sentencing judge or magistrate, but also the clearest path for an offender to face the consequences of their behaviour, understand the sentence they’ve received, and tackle the underlying causes of offending,” he said.

“But this is a long-term plan, and CCOs would need to be phased in over time, alongside enhanced funding for measures including drug and alcohol treatment and mental health services,” Mr Robertson said.

CCOs, as proposed by the Council, could last up to three years and would include minimal mandatory conditions, and at least one additional condition such as unpaid community service, alcohol or drug treatment, curfews, or restrictions on movements.

Other recommendations in the final report include:

  • More capacity for judges and magistrates to combine orders when sentencing for a single offence – to ensure the penalty is tailored to the individual crime
  • Boosting the impact of suspended sentences by allowing courts to set conditions (as part of a combined order), such as for reporting, treatment and supervision conditions
  • Giving courts the option to set a parole release date or a parole eligibility date for prison sentences of three years or less for sexual offences — reducing reliance on suspended sentences, which are unsupervised, increasing access to sentencing options with community supervision, and ensuring any changes in an offender’s risk levels can be quickly responded to (including by returning the person to custody)
  • Following a review of the operation of the new CCO and other proposed reforms, the removal of parole for short prison sentences of six months or less, with some exceptions
  • A review of mandatory sentencing.

“We hope these reforms will lead to tailored orders and provide a legislative framework that supports the use of evidence-based practices to reduce the risks of reoffending,” Mr Robertson said.

“Ultimately, this body of work is about ensuring that sentencing meets all the purposes of sentencing – punishment, community protection, deterrence, denunciation and rehabilitation.”

The Terms of Reference were issued by the Attorney-General in 2017 in response to recommendations in the 2016 Queensland Parole System Review Final Report (Sofronoff Report). The Council was also asked to consider laws which might create inconsistency or constrain sentencing options available to the court.

“This has been an incredibly complex body of work, and has identified the need for further research on some aspects of intermediate sentencing to ensure an evidence-based way forward and for a thorough implementation strategy to be developed,” Mr Robertson said.

“I’d like to thank all stakeholders who took the time to engage with us on this highly technical brief.

“In particular, my thanks to the Council’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Panel which advised us about the particular challenges faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander offenders in the criminal justice system, the importance of cultural advice to inform sentencing, and the need for more tailored and culturally appropriate responses.

“The Council looks forward to continuing to engage with the community and the justice sector about the type of sentencing system they want.”

View the final report (PDF, 7.9 MB).

Media contact

Adam Golebiowski
Phone: 0459 887 077
Email: media@sentencingcouncil.qld.gov.au

The Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council provides independent research and advice, seeks public views and promotes community understanding of sentencing matters.