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.