Recent events in NSW have focused attention on mandatory sentencing.
This post brings together relevant information about current mandatory sentencing debates in Australia. Click on the links below to view material for the relevant jurisdiction:
A mandatory sentence means that statue provides a mandatory or minimum sentence that a person must receive when convicted of a crime. This limits a judge’s discretion, in particular the influence of mitigating and aggravating circumstances, in sentencing. Some mandatory sentences are for “life imprisonment” and specify non parole periods, these generally relate to the crime of murder. However, more numerous are sentences where legislation dictates a minimum sentence that must be issued, though the judge may also choose to impose a heavier sentence if the case warrants it.
There is disagreement in the community and among legal academics about mandatory sentencing. The links below reflect some of the debate in each jurisdiction.
Academic views on mandatory sentencing as remedy, sentencing of life imprisonment and the constitutionality of mandatory sentencing provide a deeper analysis of the legal complexities.
New South Wales
Recent ‘one punch’ alcohol fuelled assaults and community concern about an escalation in violence in the CBD/Kings Cross area of Sydney have led to the NSW Government proposing a number of changes to sentencing.
- NSW Attorney General Greg Smith on Mandatory Sentencing: November 2013
- Proposed ‘One Punch’ laws and additional mandatory sentences for some violence offences: January 2014
- Proposed expansion of Mandatory Sentencing in NSW for Gun Crime: November 2013
The Queensland Government introduced mandatory sentences for ‘vicious lawless associates’ in 2013 in response to violence and crime related to ‘bikies’. These laws have been vigorously debated and are purported to be the subject of a High Court challenge later in 2014. See RoLIA’s coverage of this issue here.
- Explanation of how the new Mandatory Sentencing Laws in Queensland Work: December 2013
- War on Bikies and the Vicious Lawless Associate Disestablishment Act: December 2013
- Mandatory Sentencing in the Weapons Act: September 2013
There has been significant debate in the Northern Territory about a suite of laws designed to introduce both a staged mandatory sentencing scheme and mandatory residential alcohol treatment for people placed in protective custody more than three times in one month. This policy has been criticised for targeting Indigenous Australians.
- Mandatory Sentences for Violence Offences: February 2013
- NT Government Fact Sheet on Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Levels: March 2013
- Mandatory Residential Rehabilitation Treatment for ‘Problem Drinkers’: April 2013
The Victorian Government introduced minimum mandatory sentences for ‘gross violence’ offences in 2013 in response to community concerns about penalties for serious violence. ‘Gross violence’ is defined (in part) as being premeditated, in-company, or continuing the act of violence once a person is incapacitated.
- Mandatory Sentences for Gross Violence Offences: May 2013
- Smart Justice Victoria: Effect of Mandatory Sentencing: February 2013
- Sentencing Advisory Council Victoria Research Paper : August 2008
There has been a spirited debate in Western Australia about the imposition of mandatory minimum sentences and fixed non-parole periods for a range of offences including assault of a police officer or public official.
- Western Australian Government on Application of Mandatory Sentencing: December 2013
- Does Mandatory Sentencing Work? ABC WA: June 2013
- Mandatory Sentencing and Indigenous Australians in WA: August 2013
- Sentencing Loophole to be closed to make sure Mandatory Sentencing Regime “Sticks”: December 2013
A High Court decision Magaming v The Queen  highlighted the minimum mandatory sentence provisions for people smuggling in the Migration Act.
- High Court on Mandatory Sentencing: October 2013
- Judgement Summary of Magaming v The Queen  HCA 40: October 2013
- National Overview of Mandatory Sentencing Provisions: January 2014
Jackie Charles is RoLIA’s Education Officer. Join the discussion about rule of law issues with Jackie on Twitter @JCharRoL.