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.