The Bar Association of Queensland has become aware, through media reports, that the State government is contemplating amending the criminal law so as to provide for the fixing of standard non-parole periods for serious crimes. The government's announcement suggests that such provisions promote consistency in transparency in sentencing decisions.
At present, the Bar Association has only been alerted to the government's intention through media releases.
The government has a history of referring law and order issues to the Bar Association for comment before enacting the proposed legislation. The Bar Association always takes up the government's invitation to comment on such matters. Many of the Bar Association's submissions have led to amendments of Bills and, we think, better legislation.
If, as the Association hopes, the Government's new initiative is so referred then most certainly a submission will be made.
As a matter of policy, the fixing of standard non parole periods is a form of mandatory sentencing. As early as Monday this week, Chief Justice de Jersey, when interviewed on ABC Radio, commented on the importance of the maintenance of judicial discretion in the function of sentencing.
The discretionary determination of non-parole periods by sentencing judges is an important tool used in the sentencing process. This balances the need to redress the criminality of the offender and the protection of the public, on the one hand, with any individual mitigating circumstances which may exist.
Already in the criminal law there are mandatory non-parole periods imposed through the "serious violence offender" regime. Those provisions have had mixed success.
The Bar Association has a policy against the introduction of any form of mandatory sentencing but will, if invited, make full submissions to the State government on the policy behind this new initiative, and to the form of any proposed legislation.
Richard Douglas S.C.
For further information, please contact Richard Douglas S.C. on (07) 32180620
SOURCE: Bar Association of Queensland