Sentence Indication and Sentence Discounts

Reference from the Then Attorney-General

In 2005, the then Attorney-General asked the Council to advise on the merits of formalising a sentence indication scheme in Victoria.

The Council was also asked to investigate explicit sentence discounts. Specifically, the Council was asked to consider whether a sentence indication scheme should be adopted in Victoria, and if so, the form of such a scheme, including the role of specified sentence discounts.

Under a sentence indication scheme, the judge (or magistrate) is given an agreed summary of the facts, and any other relevant material, before a trial commences. The judicial officer would then indicate whether or not he or she would be likely to impose an immediate custodial sentence if the accused pleaded guilty.

A sentence discount is a reduction of the sentence an offender would otherwise receive because of a guilty plea.

The then Attorney-General sought advice on the potential advantages and disadvantages of such a scheme to the courts to victims of crime and to the community in general. In formulating its advice, the Council consulted broadly to obtain the views of the community, including victims of crime, on this issue.

The Sentence Indication and Specified Sentence Discounts Final Report was released in September 2007. Several of the Council's recommendations were subsequently adopted by the government.

Introduction of Sentence Indication Schemes

In March 2008, the Criminal Procedure Legislation Amendment Act 2008 created a sentence indication scheme in the Magistrates’ Court and a pilot sentence indication scheme in the higher courts (County and Supreme Courts). These amendments were broadly consistent with the recommendations in the Council’s report. 

Continuation of the Pilot Sentence Indication Scheme in the Higher Courts

In July 2008, the then Attorney-General asked the Council to monitor the pilot sentence indication scheme in the higher courts and provide information to inform the government’s decision on whether or not to extend the pilot scheme beyond the sunset date. The Council was also asked to make recommendations as to whether any changes should be made to the operation of the scheme.

The Council released Sentence Indication: A Report on the Pilot Scheme in February 2010. In its report, the Council recommended that the higher courts sentence indication scheme be continued indefinitely, consistent with the legislative framework in Part 5.6 of the Criminal Procedure Act 2009.

In response to this recommendation, the Justice Legislation Amendment Act 2010 repealed the sunset provision, allowing the continued operation of the sentence indication scheme.

Specified Sentence Discount Scheme

Also in March 2008, the Criminal Procedure Legislation Amendment Act 2008  introduced a specified sentence discount scheme in Victoria. Under the scheme, for certain sentences, if a court imposes a less severe sentence because the offender pleaded guilty, it must state the sentence and the non-parole period (if any) that it would have imposed but for the plea of guilty (the ‘specified sentence’).