Standard Sentences

In 2017, the Victorian Parliament passed laws creating standard sentences. The new laws commenced on 1 February 2018.

Victoria’s standard sentences are guideposts for sentencing 12 serious offences:

  • murder
  • rape
  • culpable driving causing death
  • trafficking in a large commercial quantity of a drug of dependence
  • eight different sexual offences involving children.

The standard sentence for most of these offences is set at 40% of the maximum penalty. For example, the maximum sentence for rape is 25 years’ imprisonment, making the standard sentence for that offence 10 years’ imprisonment.

The maximum penalty has long been one guidepost for courts when sentencing, representing the worst type of offending by the worst type of offender. The standard sentence is intended as another guidepost.

The standard sentence represents the middle of the range of seriousness when just considering the offending and no other factors (such as the offender’s circumstances, prior offending history or plea).

Courts are required to consider the standard sentence alongside all other relevant sentencing principles and factors.

Courts need to provide reasons explaining how the sentence imposed in a case relates to the relevant standard sentence. For example, in cases where the offending behaviour is judged to be less serious than the midpoint of seriousness in other instances of that offence, the court may decide to impose a sentence less than the standard sentence. Alternatively, a court may impose a sentence greater than the standard sentence if the case involves offending that is more serious than the midpoint of seriousness for the offending behaviour.

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