Flexibility to tailor sentences

Question 4–5              Beyond increasing availability of existing community-based sentencing options, is legislative reform required to allow judicial officers greater flexibility to tailor sentences?

4.73     Jurisdictions vary in how much flexibility judicial officers have in tailoring sentences. For example, Victoria allows for community correction orders to be combined with a term of imprisonment for short sentences[74] while legislation in the ACT and Tasmania provides for sentence combinations that include terms of full-time imprisonment in conjunction with other orders—such as community service orders, good behaviour orders, probation or a fine.[75] Following a review of sentencing law by the NSW Law Reform Commission, the NSW Government has proposed a suite of reforms designed, among other things, to introduce community correction orders intended to be a ‘flexible sentence that the court can tailor to reflect the nature of the offender and the offence’.[76] It is unclear whether these will be able to be combined with terms of imprisonment.

4.74     Some jurisdictions have moved towards removing or replacing some sentencing options. Stakeholders noted that suspended sentences have been abolished in Victoria, and NSW has indicated that it will follow suit.[77] Some stakeholders have commented that suspended sentences were particularly beneficial for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander female offenders. It was suggested the ‘last chance’ nature of them, without any other conditions or requirements attached other than not to offend, made them easy to understand and comply with.

4.75     The ALRC has heard that a wide variety of sentencing options, along with more flexibility to allow for greater ‘mix and match’ combinations, would assist judicial officers when sentencing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander offenders. The ALRC welcomes submissions on whether legislative reform is necessary to meet these ends.