: Suspended sentences (again)

Suspended sentences (again)

Bronwyn Naylor

As the effect of the change of government in Victoria plays itself out, the Sentencing Amendment Act 2010 has been altered by the passage of the Sentencing Further Amendment Act 2011, with some of the alterations taking effect from 1 May 2011. This includes the removal of the option of suspended prison sentences for ‘serious’ and ‘significant’ offences. Serious offences include all offences that can only be dealt with in the County or Supreme Courts.

While the definition of ‘significant’ offences has been further amended, the upshot is that suspended sentences are still available for offences charged in the Magistrates Courts. The amendments also abolish the requirement for a suspended sentence for repeat driving offenders (Sentencing Amendment Act s 28); this is a significant move away from the earlier provision which required a sentence of imprisonment in such cases; the legislation now provides a penalty of a fine of 240 penalty units or imprisonment up to 2 years.

Suspended sentences have been targeted politically for some time — as discussed, for instance, in this journal in Volume 35(4). The new Victorian Attorney General Robert Clark emphasised the importance of ‘truth in sentencing’ — that ‘jail will mean jail’ — but also said in a press release that where a judge does not believe a person should go to jail they should use a community-based sentence to make this clear, rather than sentencing to imprisonment and then suspending the prison term.

BRONWYN NAYLOR teaches law at Monash University.

(2011) 36(2) AltLJ 135
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