The Council is currently working on:
The Council is examining the use of sentence deferrals in Victoria. Deferred sentencing is a pre-sentence option. It allows a court to postpone an offender’s sentence for up to 12 months after the offender has been found guilty of an offence. This enables the person to participate in a rehabilitation program or demonstrate their rehabilitation, which can assist the court in assessing their capacity for rehabilitation.
The Council is investigating whether there are opportunities to improve the use of deferred sentencing in Victoria. This may be through legislative reform, changes to courtroom practices and/or changes to the availability of support programs. The Council is reviewing the eligibility criteria for these orders, their legislated purposes, their maximum durations, the use of conditions and the relevance of an offender’s progress on deferral to their final sentence.
The project has five phases:
- preliminary consultation with stakeholders to identify key issues
- survey of judicial officers and criminal lawyers across Victoria
- publication of a consultation paper on key issues and options for reform, inviting written submissions
- targeted consultation with stakeholders on the key issues and options for reform, including with the general community
- publication of a final report with recommendations.
The Council released Reforming Sentence Deferrals in Victoria: Consultation Paper in October 2022. A final report with recommendations will be published in 2023.
The Council is conducting a literature review about the effectiveness of criminal justice diversion programs.
Diversion allows an offender who admits responsibility for a criminal offence to avoid a formal criminal justice outcome. This can occur prior to a person being charged (such as through cautioning by Victoria Police) or after a person has been charged (such as via the Criminal Justice Diversion Program in the Magistrates’ Court or a diversion program in the Children’s Court).
Diversion is commonly thought to reduce the harms associated with criminal justice involvement. In this way, it has been said to potentially reduce reoffending, improve life outcomes for people involved in the justice system, reduce the costs of the criminal justice system and make the community safer in the long term.
The report will examine the available evidence on diversion, exploring:
- the theoretical basis for diversion (why might it work?)
- how we measure the effectiveness of diversion
- whether there are any groups of people most suited to being diverted
- whether diversion does, in fact, work.
The report will draw on some examples and literature from Victoria and Australia, but it is not a review of any specific program. Instead, it is an overview of evidence from a range of jurisdictions, nationally and overseas, about diversion generally.
Criminal Justice Diversion Program
The Council is currently examining the Magistrate’s Court’s Criminal Justice Diversion Program (CJDP).
The CJDP is available in cases where the accused admits responsibility for an offence and the accused and the prosecution both consent to the offender receiving a diversionary order. If the court decides diversion is appropriate, it can make an order adjourning the case for up to 12 months so that the accused can complete a diversion plan. If they complete the plan successfully, they are discharged without a finding of guilt.
The Council last examined the CJDP in 2008. This new report will update the data from that review and examine:
- the demographics of offenders who receive diversion
- characteristics of diversion cases (such as family violence status and offence types)
- conditions of diversion plans
- ultimate outcomes associated with diversion cases.
In addition, this report will include a time-series analysis of changes over the last decade. It will also analyse the reoffending of people who have taken part in the Criminal Justice Diversion Program.
The Council is examining combined orders of imprisonment and community correction orders (CCOs) in Victoria. Combined orders can be imposed both in the higher courts and in the Magistrates’ Court. They require an offender to complete a prison term before serving a CCO in the community. CCOs can have conditions attached to them, such as community work, curfews, supervision and electronic monitoring. They can also require offenders to participate in programs designed to reduce their risk of reoffending, or to undertake medical treatment.
The Council will investigate the prevalence of combined orders since the introduction of CCOs in 2012, the types of conditions attached to combined orders, and whether conditions differ from those attached to CCOs imposed without a prison term.
The maximum prison term that can be combined with a CCO has been amended twice since 2012, from 3 months to 2 years, and from 2 years to 1 year now. The Council will also be investigating whether the prevalence of combined orders changed as a result of these amendments.