Creation of a Sentencing Guidelines Council

On 12 July 2017, the Sentencing Advisory Council received a request from the Attorney-General, the Hon Martin Pakula, MP, to consult and advise on a sentencing guidelines council for Victoria.

On 25 May 2017, the government announced its intention to create a sentencing guidelines council to engage with the community and provide guidance to the courts on sentencing for specific offences.

This announcement followed the Council’s 2016 report Sentencing Guidance in Victoria, in which consideration was given to a sentencing guidelines council as an ‘aspirational model’ for sentencing guidance. The Council advised that a sentencing guidelines council, similar to councils in operation in the United Kingdom, warranted further consideration. A guidelines council might overcome some of the difficulties identified with both legislative sentence guidance mechanisms and court imposed guideline judgments.

Unlike the current Sentencing Advisory Council, which provides advice to the government about sentencing law and policy (among other functions), a sentencing guidelines council would produce written guidelines for the courts to apply when sentencing.

Request for Consultation and Advice

The Council was asked to examine and evaluate the Scottish Sentencing Council and the England and Wales Sentencing Council models, and explore which model, or which features of these models, would be most suitable for Victoria.

To facilitate consultation, the Council published an issues paper examining:

  • the composition of a sentencing guidelines council
  • the role of the judiciary, and a judicial majority, on the council
  • how a sentencing guideline would be developed
  • how sentencing guidelines would apply to individual cases.

In November 2017, the Council announced a call for submissions on the issues raised and questions posed in the issues paper and held a series of consultation events, including a community discussion panel.

Constitutional Advice

The Council subsequently received advice on potential constitutional limitations of a sentencing guidelines council in Victoria. In light of this advice and submissions from stakeholders, the Council put forward 22 recommendations for implementing the guidelines council.

Report to government

The Council provided its report, A Sentencing Guidelines Council for Victoria, to the Attorney-General on 29 March 2018.