The Queensland Government has ordered a review of sentences handed to people convicted of declared serious violent offences which require they serve a minimum of 80% or 15-years – or whichever is lesser — of prison terms imposed by the courts.
Queensland Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Shannon Fentiman, in a statement obtained by Proctor, said the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council (QSAC) had been tasked with reviewing the Serious Violent Offences (SVO) scheme and reporting back to the government in a year’s time (April 11, 2022).
Ms Fentiman said the Terms of Reference asked QSAC to take into consideration numerous matters related to the SVO scheme under Queensland’s Penalties and Sentences Act 1992, including its impacts on the state’s sentencing practice.
QSAC Chair and retired Queensland District and Children’s Court judge John Robertson yesterday (April 9) said the current SVO scheme required a person declared as being convicted of certain listed offences must serve at least 80% of their sentence or 15 years in prison before being eligible to apply for parole.
“Violent offences, offences of a sexual nature, and serious drug offences sentenced in the District and Supreme courts are just a few of the categories of crime the Serious Violent Offences scheme can be applied to,” Mr Robertson said.
The SVO scheme came into effect in 1997 and there has been little legislative change to it since its introduction 24 years ago.
The scheme was introduced to respond to concern for community safety and community outrage over serious violent crime. It was described as being based on a reasonable community expectation that sentences reflect the seriousness of the violence and harm of the offending, and that just punishment would be given to those who genuinely deserve it.
Mr Robertson said QSAC had identified a need for the scheme to be reviewed in its previous reports on sentencing for child homicide offences and its review of community-based sentencing orders, imprisonment and parole options.
It is expected QSAC will soon call for preliminary feedback to assist in identifying key issues to be explored in responding to the reference, with feedback helping to inform the approach to the project and establish questions for further research and discussion.
QSAC, which was first established in December 2010, dismantled under an LNP Government in 2012 and reconstituted in November 2016, was established to provide independent research and advice, seek public views and promote community understanding of sentencing matters.
Ms Fentiman said ensuring the safety of Queenslanders and that courts were handing down appropriate sentences to violent and sexual offenders was a key focus of the government.
“The QSAC review of the SVO scheme will help us to assess whether the scheme is operating as it was intended, which is to prevent violent criminals from harming our communities and reoffending,’’ she said.
“It will examine whether further reforms are required to ensure that sentencing outcomes reflect the seriousness of these offences.
“The review will also examine the impact of the SVO scheme on victims’ satisfaction with the sentencing process, as well as the impact of any recommendations on the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the criminal justice system.”
Queensland Homicide Victims Support Group Chief Executive Officer Brett Thompson welcomed the review.
“We know that QSAC have been heavily engaged with QHVSG in previous reviews and we look forward to supporting their work collaboratively again,’’ Mr Thompson said.
“It will enable our members to provide input into potential change,” Mr Thompson.
Read the SVO scheme review Terms of Reference here: https://www.sentencingcouncil.qld.gov.au/terms-of-reference/serious-violent-offences-scheme-review/tor