In a 2009 report to the Attorney-General, the ACT Law Reform Advisory Council expressed its concerns about the accuracy of the Supreme Court’s sentencing data and recommended that the Supreme Court be resourced to ensure sentencing data is recorded accurately and comprehensively, and establish a publicly available electronic database of sentencing remarks.
In June 2012, the ACT government allocated $2.2 million over four years for the creation of a new sentencing database. When announcing the database, the Attorney-General stated: ‘The ACT Labor government went to the last election with a clear policy to improve sentencing practices in the Territory and this injection of funds fulfils that election commitment.’
The proposed sentencing database is a welcome addition to the ACT sentencing landscape, but is arguably an incomplete response. It is not yet clear if the public will be required to pay a subscription fee to access the data, and in any event, this information may be difficult to interpret. The ACT public deserves accessible and contextualised sentencing data — that is the bridge which may be provided by a Sentencing Council.
LORANA BARTELS teaches law at the University of Canberra.