Pre-sentence and Similar Reports

676. A Valuable Aid. The use of pre-sentence and similar reports, whether prepared by the departmental officers normally assigned to this task or by persons specially commissioned to do so because of their special expertise and knowledge of the case, or of the defendant’s community, is one way in which information about local traditions and usages can be provided to the court. The usefulness of pre-sentence reports was stressed in Chapter 21, although it was concluded that other means of informing the court on the background to an offence and on local opinion should also be used.[869] The reports may be admitted as pre-trial reports, and are not limited to decisions on sentence, although it is in this latter context that they are commonly used. For example, in R v Charlie Limbiari Jagamara a pre-sentence report prepared by an anthropologist, Dr Bell, detailing matters relating to traditional marriage, was referred to extensively in the court.[870] Given the wide range of relevant matters in sentencing decisions, and the difficulties that have occurred in some cases where courts were not fully informed, the Commission supports greater use of pre-sentence reports. As with other evidentiary aids discussed in this Part, the legislation should expressly confer power on the court to seek a pre-sentence report from a person or persons with special expertise or experience, in any case where considerations of Aboriginal customary laws or traditions are relevant in sentencing.