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Research review raises doubts on serious violent offender scheme

New research published by the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council (QSAC) raises questions about whether the state’s serious violent offender (SVO) scheme is effective in keeping the community safe.

Last Friday QSAC published a University of Melbourne scoping review of research relevant to Queensland’s SVO scheme, along with the terms of reference for QSAC’s review of the scheme.

Under the current SVO scheme in Queensland, a person declared as being convicted of a serious violent offence must serve 80% of their sentence or 15 years, whichever is less, in prison before being eligible to apply for parole.

QSAC councillor and project sponsor Dan Rogers said the review had drawn on more then 10 years of available research to review the effectiveness of Queensland’s SVO and similar schemes.

He said the review provided insights into the effectiveness of mandatory non-parole period sentencing schemes, public perceptions of serious violent offences, and approaches to achieving community protection.

Mr Rogers said: “The review outlines there is little evidence supporting the assumption that a threshold of 80% of a sentence served in prison reduces an offender’s risk to the community.

“The research found that longer periods of supervision in the community and a wide range of interventions, programs and measures could prove more effective at reducing the risk, dangerousness and harms caused by those individuals subject to orders like Queensland’s SVO scheme.”

The review was produced as part of QSAC’s terms of reference, and draws on, and evaluates, relevant research and evidence published since 2010.

Mr Rogers said the council was finalising an issues paper, planned for release in early November, which would incorporate the findings from the review and present new information on sentencing statistics for Schedule 1 offences.

Consultation following the release of the issues paper will provide the next opportunity for the community and organisations to contribute feedback to QSAC by considering the issues outlined in the paper and responding to some or all the questions raised about the effectiveness of the scheme in Queensland.

Mr Rogers said it was vitally important to receive submissions following the release of the issues paper so that the council could gain a better understanding of the application of the current scheme, key issues to consider, and stakeholder and community views on potential reform if necessary.

QSAC is due to deliver a final report to the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Shannon Fentiman, on 11 April 2022.

Read the University of Melbourne review. See the QSAC inquiry’s terms of reference.

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