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 of Arie Freiberg AMEmeritus Professor Arie Freiberg AM (Chair)

Profile - Senior member of an academic institution
Emeritus Professor Arie Freiberg is an authority on sentencing issues and the criminal justice system, having undertaken extensive research on sentencing theory, policy and practice. He was Dean of Law at Monash University from 2004 to 2012 and has served as a consultant to the federal, Victorian, South Australian and Western Australian governments on sentencing matters, as well as to the Australian Law Reform Commission and the South African Law Reform Commission. Professor Freiberg was appointed as Chair of the Tasmanian Sentencing Advisory Council in 2013.


Headshot of Lisa WardLisa Ward (Deputy-Chair)

Profile - Operation of the criminal justice system
Lisa Ward has extensive experience in a range of human services, including juvenile justice, child protection and adult corrections. For the last decade, she has operated a human services consulting business, providing research, program evaluation and policy review services to government and community organisations.


Headshot of Carmel ArthurCarmel Arthur OAM

Profile - Operation of the criminal justice system
Carmel Arthur has great personal insight and a unique comprehension of the operation of the criminal justice system. She is not only a victim of crime but has also worked with many victims of crime. She advocates for better treatment and access to Justice for all victims and their families through the criminal justice process and is particularly conscious of the need to keep the community engaged and informed about the justice system.  She had Carmel is a founding member of the Sentencing Advisory Council and was a long-term community member of the Adult Parole Board until her appointment as a full-time member of the newly established Post[1]Sentence Authority in 2018. Carmel was appointed to the Board of the Penington Institute in 2018. She has vast experience in the criminal justice system particularly with courts, Corrections and Victoria Police.


Hugh De KretserHugh de Kretser

Profile - Community issues affecting courts
Hugh de Kretser is the Executive Director of the Human Rights Law Centre. He has extensive legal practice and policy experience in the criminal justice system, working on both offender and victim issues. He previously worked for six years as the Executive Officer of the Federation of Community Legal Centres and was a commissioner on the Victorian Law Reform Commission from 2008 to 2012.


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 Helen FatourosHelen Fatouros

Profile - Operation of the criminal justice system
Helen Fatouros has worked within the criminal justice system for over 18 years as a lawyer and leader within prosecutions and the legal assistance sector. Her previous roles include Executive Director Criminal Law Services at Victoria Legal Aid, Legal Prosecution Specialist and Directorate Manager Specialist Sex Offences at the Victorian Office of Public Prosecutions. In 2012, Helen led the Sexual Offences Interactive Legal Education Program, earning her the Law Institute of Victoria’s 2013 President’s Award for Government Lawyer of the Year. Helen is also a current Commissioner of the Victorian Law Reform Commission.


Headshot of David GraceDavid Grace QC

Profile - Highly experienced defence lawyer
David Grace has nearly 40 years' experience as a legal practitioner, having appeared in numerous court jurisdictions in a number of leading sentencing cases. He regularly appears in the High Court and the Court of Appeal and is a former Chair of the Criminal Law Section of the Law Institute of Victoria.


Headshot of Brendan KissaneBrendan Kissane QC

Profile - Highly experienced prosecution lawyer
Brendan Kissane QC was appointed Chief Crown Prosecutor in March 2018.  He has been a barrister for over 30 years, commencing his career in law as a solicitor with the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service.  He has been a Senior Crown Prosecutor since 2015, and was previously a Crown Prosecutor for eight years. He was the first Crown Prosecutor assigned to Geelong, where he oversaw the operations of the local Office of Public Prosecutions from 2009 to 2011.


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 Susanna QuinnSusanna Quinn

Profile - Person who is involved in the management of a victim of crime support group or advocacy group and who is a victim of crime or a representative of victims of crime
Susanna Quinn commenced employment at the Office of Public Prosecutions (Victim and Witness Assistance Service) as a social work practitioner in 2009.  She has been manager of the service since late 2017.  Susanna has over 20 years’ experience in social work practice. She has worked in the areas of homelessness, family violence, child protection, juvenile justice, and youth and family counselling, as well as in the acute hospital setting at the Alfred Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit. Susanna is also currently a serving member of the Victims of Crime Consultative Committee. 


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.

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

Cynthia Marwood (Chief Executive Officer)
Zsombor Bathy (Senior Data Analyst)
Dennis Byles (Senior Data Analyst)
Anna Chalton (Senior Legal Policy Officer)
Dugan Dallimore (Data Analyst)
Catherine Jeffreys (Senior Publications and Website Officer)
Anusha Kenny (Principal Legal Policy Officer)
Sarah Lappin (Operations Manager)
Paul McGorrery (Manager, Legal Policy and Community Engagement)
Paul Schollum (Manager, Statistical Analysis)
Felicity Stewart (Principal Legal Policy Officer)