Queensland stands alone with SVO scheme
Friday, 24 September 2021
The Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council has found the state’s serious violent offences (SVO) scheme is unique.
In a background paper released today investigating mandatory and minimum non-parole period schemes in Australia and three other common law jurisdictions*, the Council has determined that Queensland’s SVO scheme is unlike any other scheme analysed.
Council member, and Project Sponsor for the review, Dan Rogers, said the fundamental difference in the state’s scheme to others operating in Australia, is the mandatory/discretionary split of the scheme based on sentence length.
“When declared convicted of certain listed offences under the scheme in Queensland, the offender must serve 80 per cent of their sentence, or 15 years, whichever is less, in prison before being eligible to apply for parole,” Mr Rogers said.
“This applies automatically when the head sentence is 10 years or more.
“Typically, in sentencing, courts have discretion, or choice, when setting parole release or eligibility dates but under the SVO scheme this period of non-parole eligibility is fixed and unable to be altered.”
Mr Rogers said most Australian states and territories have some form of standard or minimum sentence or non-parole period scheme for those who commit serious violent offences, which vary as to the level of discretion available to a court.
“A number of other standard or minimum non-parole period schemes in Australia allow courts to set an earlier parole eligibility date than prescribed under the scheme, although some do not,” Mr Rogers said.
“There are a number of reasons why courts might move away from what is outlined in a scheme – if they feel it is required to enable a just sentence, or where there are special or exceptional circumstances.”
Mr Rogers said the background paper plays an important role in supporting the Terms of Reference review on the SVO scheme in Part 9A of the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992 and is the second of four background papers to be released.
“In August we released the first background paper on the history of the SVO scheme which is available on the Council’s website,” Mr Rogers said.
“We have another two papers to be published on the analysis of key Queensland Court of Appeal decisions related to the scheme and how it is understood and applied by courts, and a statistical analysis of sentencing and parole outcomes.
“The series of papers will provide more detailed information about legal principles and data than we can include in our upcoming Issues Paper – supporting those organisations or individuals who would like to make a submission.”
The Council will deliver a final report to the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Minister for Women and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence, the Honourable Shannon Fentiman MP, on 11 April 2022.
The Terms of Reference outlining what the Council has been asked to consider is available on the Council’s website, along with the first background paper and an information sheet about the SVO scheme.
*The three other common law jurisdictions investigated were: Canada, England and Wales, and New Zealand.