About Us

Establishment and Functions

The Sentencing Advisory Council is an independent statutory body established under amendments to the Sentencing Act 1991.

In 2000, the Victorian Government requested a review of aspects of Victoria’s sentencing laws. This was in response to concerns that the sentencing process was in need of reform.

The review was undertaken by Professor Arie Freiberg. His report, Pathways to Justice, recommended a number of improvements to the sentencing system, including the establishment of a Sentencing Advisory Council.

The review found general support for the creation of an organisation that would:

  • conduct research on sentencing policy
  • collect and analyse statistical data
  • provide current sentencing information to the government, judiciary, and the public
  • provide feedback on the effectiveness of sanctions imposed on offenders.

The Victorian Government accepted the need for properly informed public opinion to be incorporated into the sentencing process and the recommendation for a Sentencing Advisory Council to be created. The Council was subsequently established in 2004.

The Council is not the first of its kind. Other similar organisations have been established in England, Scotland, New South Wales, and Tasmania.

Functions of the Council

The Council's mission is to bridge the gap between the community, the courts and government by informing, educating, and advising on sentencing issues.

Section 108C of the Sentencing Act 1991 provides that the functions of the Council are to:

  • provide statistical information on sentencing, including information on current sentencing practices to members of the judiciary and other interested persons
  • conduct research and disseminate information to members of the judiciary and other interested persons on sentencing matters
  • gauge public opinion on sentencing
  • consult on sentencing matters with government departments and other interested persons and bodies as well as the general public
  • advise the Attorney-General on sentencing issues
  • provide the Court of Appeal with the Council's written views on the giving, or review, of a guideline judgment.

In addition to establishing the Council, the government also amended the Sentencing Act 1991 to allow the Court of Appeal to deliver guideline judgments.

The Council is an advisory body rather than a review body. The Council cannot review sentencing outcomes in individual cases. This is the role of the appellate courts on application from either the defendant or the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Council Directors

Sentencing Advisory Council Directors come from a broad spectrum of professional and community backgrounds and represent a range of perspectives. Under section 108F of the Sentencing Act 1991, between eleven and fourteen Council members must be appointed under eight profile areas.

Headshot Professor Marilyn McMahonProfessor Marilyn McMahon

Profile - Senior member of an academic institution
Marilyn McMahon is an experienced academic, having taught and researched criminal law  for many years. She has served as a consultant to the Victorian government and her work has been cited by law reform bodies in Australia and the United Kingdom. She is Dean of the Law School at Deakin University. Professor McMahon is also a registered psychologist and has a particular interest in the intersection of the criminal law and mental health systems. She is currently a member of the Forensic Leave Panel and the Disciplinary Appeals Board and was previously a member of the Mental Health Tribunal and the Intellectual Disability Review Board.


Headshot of Fiona DowsleyFiona Dowsley

Profile - Operation of the criminal justice system
Fiona Dowsley has over a decade of experience in building the evidence base in crime and justice to support improved research and decision-making. She spent two years as Director of the National Centre for Crime and Justice Statistics at the Australian Bureau of Statistics and has collaborated in the international sphere, such as with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Task Force, to develop an international classification of crime. In January 2014, she was appointed as the founding Chief Statistician of the Crime Statistics Agency in Victoria.


Headshot of David GlynnDavid Glynn

Profile  - Highly experienced prosecution lawyer
David was admitted to practice as a lawyer in 1992 and thereafter worked as a solicitor in private practice and at Victoria Legal Aid. David became a barrister in 2001.  Throughout his legal career he has practiced exclusively in criminal law, appearing for both defence and prosecution.  In 2019 David was appointed a Crown Prosecutor for the State of Victoria, a position he still holds.


Headshot of Council Director Anoushka JeronimusAnoushka Jeronimus

Profile - Broad experience in community issues affecting courts
Anoushka Jeronimus is the Director of the Youth Law Program at WEstjustice, commencing there in 2020.  Prior to WEstjustice, Anoushka was at Victoria Legal Aid where she held several roles, most recently as statewide Youth Crime Program Manager for almost seven years.  She is a practising lawyer and Law Institute of Victoria accredited specialist in criminal law and children’s law.  She is a member of the Victorian Multicultural Commission’s North West Advisory Group, Law Institute of Victoria’s Criminal Law Executive and Children’s Law Advisory Committee, and Co-Convenor of Smart Justice 4 Young People.  She received the National Children’s Law Award in 2012, along with Victoria Legal Aid, for contributing to law reform in relation to the Tyler Cassidy Inquest. Anoushka is regarded by many as a sector leader in relation to youth justice policy and practice.


Headshot of Council Director Dan NicholsonDan Nicholson

Profile - Operation of the criminal justice system
Dan Nicholson is the Executive Director, Criminal Law at Victoria Legal Aid, responsible for the delivery of legally aided criminal law services across the state. Dan has worked with VLA since 2012 in a range of roles, including as the Executive Director, Civil Justice, Access and Equity. Dan previously managed the Human Rights Unit at the Victorian Department of Justice, was Associate to Justice Maxwell, President of the Court of Appeal and worked at Fitzroy Legal Service. He has worked on a range of human rights issues in Cambodia and Timor-Leste. Dan was appointed to the Victorian Law Reform Commission in September 2018.


Headshot of Council Director Anne O'BrienAnne O'Brien

Profile - Operation of the criminal justice system
Anne O’Brien is a social worker with over 30 years’ experience working within Victoria’s criminal justice system. She commenced her professional life working with young offenders in juvenile justice and progressed to working as a community corrections officer with the Office of Corrections. She spent several years in the not-for-profit sector supporting those impacted by homelessness and family violence and working with children at risk.  For the past 25 years, Anne has been committed to working with victims of crime as they navigate their way through the prosecution of indictable matters.  Her role as a Senior Social Worker at the Office of Public Prosecutions within the Victims and Witness Assistance Service led her to develop a deep understanding of how the criminal justice process impacts victims and witnesses.  Within her role at the OPP, she performed advocacy and specialist support to victims and witnesses and is a highly regarded and valued criminal justice professional.


Headshot of Paul SmallwoodPaul Smallwood

Profile  - Highly experienced defence lawyer
Paul Smallwood is a barrister practicing primarily in criminal and administrative law. He appears in trials and appeals in Victoria and other Australian jurisdictions and has appeared in a number of high-profile sentencing cases. He is the Secretary of the Criminal Bar Association and a member of the Greens List Committee. He was the Secretary of Liberty Victoria from 2014 to 2018. Doyle’s Guide has on multiple occasions considered Paul one of the preeminent counsel practising in criminal law in Victoria and Australia.


Headshot of Wendy SteedhamWendy Steendam

Profile - Operation of the criminal justice system
Deputy Commissioner Steendam has performed significant senior executive roles across Victoria Police and is currently Deputy Commissioner Specialist Operations with portfolio responsibility for Road Policing Command, Family Violence Command, Intelligence & Covert Support Command, Forensic Services Department, and Legal Services Department. DC Steendam also has oversight and responsibility for Victoria Police’s response to the Royal Commission into the Management of Police Informants. A highly respected police leader with over 35 years' experience, DC Steendam has developed strong and effective relationships across government, law enforcement agencies, corporate entities and a range of community agencies. She has contributed as a member of many boards of management, both within policing and more broadly across the community sector.


Headshot of Nathan WattNathan Watt

Profile - Police officer ranked senior sergeant or below
Sergeant Nathan Watt joined Victoria Police soon after he was admitted to practice as a lawyer. He has been a serving member for 17 years, working the last 12 years in the legal services department. He has extensive experience prosecuting matters in the Magistrates’ Court, and appearing in the Supreme Court for bail-related matters. Nathan has previously trained police prosecutors, and now trains and advises frontline members and senior management of Victoria Police, including advising on matters relating to legislative reform and policy.


Council Secretariat

The Council is supported by a secretariat that undertakes the Council's daily work, including research, statistical analysis, community engagement, community education and administrative support.

Current Staff

Paul McGorrery (Chief Executive Officer)
Zsombor Bathy (Senior Data Analyst)
Dennis Byles (Senior Data Analyst)
Melanie Hull (Legal Policy Researcher)
Catherine Jeffreys (Senior Publications and Website Officer)
Sarah Lappin (Operations Manager)
Paul Schollum (Manager, Statistical Analysis)
Octavian Simu (Senior Legal Policy Officer)
Felicity Stewart (Principal Legal Policy Officer)
Pallavi-Sarojini Waghmode (Data Analyst)