Watershed Event in Victorian Sentencing

5 January 2015

On 22 December 2014, the Victorian Court of Appeal handed down its first guideline judgment in sentencing offenders.  This judgment gives general guidance to Victorian courts on the imposition of a community correction order (CCO) – Victoria’s newest intermediate sentencing order.

The purpose of a CCO is to provide a non-custodial sentence that may be used for a wide range of offending behaviours while having regard to, and addressing the circumstances of, the offender.  CCOs come with a range of new conditions, and a CCO can be imposed for a period up to the maximum penalty for an offence in the County and Supreme Courts.

The Director of Public Prosecutions applied to the Court of Appeal in 2013 for a guideline judgment in relation to two cases in which the offender had applied for leave to appeal against sentence: R v Clements (S APCR 2013 0141) and R v Boulton (S APCR 2013 0135).  The Court of Appeal joined a third case: R v Fitzgerald (S APCR 2013 0177).   All three appellants had received a lengthy CCO: 10 years, 8 years, and 5 years respectively. 

Consistent with its statutory functions, the Sentencing Advisory Council indicated its support for the giving of a guideline judgment, and provided research materials to assist the Court of Appeal in making its decision.

The guideline judgment will assist all courts by structuring the approach to be taken in determining whether to impose a CCO and in setting the length and conditions of a CCO.  This will enhance consistency and transparency in sentencing, and help promote greater public confidence in the criminal justice system.

A copy of the guideline judgment is available at the Australasian Legal Information Institute (AustLII) website