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Friday, 26 June 2009

Sentencing Advisory Council release intervention order reports

The Sentencing Advisory Council (SAC) has released the results of its review of sentencing practices for intervention order breaches.

Its findings are in two reports: the Sentencing Practices Final Report and the Breaching Intervention Orders Report.

The SAC identified the following issues:
  • The lack of obvious connection in some cases between the penalties imposed and any identifiable sentencing objective;
  • The prevalence of fines and adjourned undertakings, particularly in cases of subsequent breaches
  • The possible impact of penalties (particularly fines) on victims of the offending
  • Difficulties with the operation of behavioural change programs.
The SAC has developed a series of guiding principles (found at Appendix 1 of their Final Report) they believe may help address some of these problems. The Executive Summary to the report states:
The Council intends that these guiding principles will promote some level of consistency of approach among sentencing courts. The guidance provided is not in any way designed to displace judicial discretion. The principles were developed in consultation with stakeholders, including magistrates, and are for the purpose of ensuring that magistrates have as much information as possible at their disposal to assist them in exercising their discretion.

The Council also sees a wider role for the guiding principles to be used by all involved in the sentencing process. Police prosecutors and defence lawyers may use the guiding principles in formulating their submissions to the court at sentencing hearings for breaches of family violence intervention orders. The principles can promote consistency by providing a framework for submissions across different courts around Victoria.
Further information and the full reports can be found on the SAC website.

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