: ACT reforms to sentencing

ACT reforms to sentencing

Lorana Bartels

The ACT is undergoing significant changes in respect of sentencing laws. The Legislative Assembly Standing Committee on Justice and Community Safety is currently conducting an inquiry into sentencing and is expected to deliver its report in early 2014. The terms of reference include the law, legal doctrine and rationale of contemporary sentencing practice; comparisons with other jurisdictions; rates of successful sentencing appeals; and timeliness in handing down decisions and sentences.

In March 2014, the ACT government announced its intention to phase out the use of periodic detention by 2016–17. The ACT is currently the only Australian jurisdiction that uses periodic detention, with NSW having abolished it in 2010. In April 2014, the ACT Corrections Minister, Shane Rattenbury, confirmed that moving away from periodic detention would ‘make way for future alternative options which may include intensive community correction orders, which will more effectively deliver on our goals of rehabilitation and reduced rates of incarceration’.

In May 2014, the ACT Attorney-General, Simon Corbell MLA, announced that the government would review sentencing purposes and options in the ACT as part of a justice reform strategy focused on enhancing the legal framework for sentencing and restorative justice which ‘would give the ACT a state of the art approach to dealing with criminal behaviour and reducing recidivism’. The strategy will involve close consultation with a wide range of stakeholders, including the judiciary, police, legal practitioners, human rights and victims’ advocates, academic experts and the broader community. The government has already commissioned research on international models of intensive supervision orders to inform the replacement of periodic detention.

As a first step towards phasing out periodic detention, the ACT government introduced the Crimes (Sentencing) Amendment Bill 2014 to the Legislative Assembly on

30 October 2014. The Bill provides that:

  • a sentencing court may no longer order that a person sentenced to imprisonment serve their sentence by way of both full-time detention and periodic detention; and
  • a sentencing court may not order a person to serve a sentence of imprisonment by way of periodic detention beyond 30 June 2016.

LORANA BARTELS teaches law at the University of Canberra.

(2014) 39(4) AltLJ 273
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