Will Hodgman

Premier of Tasmania



30 March 2016

Vanessa Goodwin, Attorney-General

Major sentencing reforms to phase out the use of suspended sentences and introduce new sentencing options

Serious sex offenders, drug traffickers and violent criminals will no longer be eligible for suspended sentences under the first tranche of reforms to be introduced by the Hodgman Liberal Government.

The final report on suspended sentences by the Sentencing Advisory Council confirms that Tasmania’s use of suspended sentences is higher than in all other Australian jurisdictions. Given the widespread community perception of suspended sentences as a soft and ineffective response to crime, Tasmania’s heavy reliance on suspended sentences continues to diminish community confidence in the sentencing process. The Government remains committed to addressing this problematic situation by ensuring that meaningful sentencing options are available which are proportionate to the gravity of the crime committed and the offenders’ prospects for rehabilitation.

The phasing in of new alternatives and phasing out of suspended sentences will commence later this year under a five-year transition period as recommended by the Sentencing Advisory Council (SAC). Consistent with our election commitment, the use of suspended sentences for offenders convicted of very serious offences will be phased out first after new sentencing options are added. The first tranche of reforms will also prohibit the use of suspended sentences as a sentencing option for offenders being sentenced for a breach of suspended sentence.

In addition, the Government’s commitment to legislate this year for minimum mandatory sentences for serious child sex offences, and to extend minimum mandatory sentences for assaults against emergency services personnel, will see suspended sentences no longer available for those offenders. The Government is also considering additional reforms to target high risk family violence offenders which may further restrict the use of suspended sentences.

Legislation will be introduced later this year to implement the first new alternative sentencing options – extending Drug Treatment Orders to the Supreme Court and allowing fines without conviction – and also to provide the option of deferred sentencing, which is already available in the youth justice court. The introduction of deferred sentencing will also formalise the practice currently used in the mental health and cognitive disability diversion list.

Further legislation in 2017 will introduce the new sentencing options of home detention and community correction orders (CCOs). The new CCOs will replace the current sentencing options of probation and community service orders, and include a range of core and special conditions to enable the sentencing court to tailor the order to each offender’s level of risk and rehabilitation requirements.

In 2018, the existing Drug Treatment Orders will be expanded to accommodate offenders with a history of alcohol abuse where substance abuse has contributed to their offending behaviour. The Government has requested the Tasmania Law Reform Institute to examine whether a recidivist drink driving court should be implemented in Tasmania and the recommendations from that work will also be taken into consideration in developing the expanded order. The SAC analysis of suspended sentences imposed between 2011-2014 (by most serious offence) revealed that around 25% of the offenders who received a fully suspended sentence in the Magistrates Court had committed a drink and/or drug driving offence.

The new sentencing options will be available to all offenders, not just those who may have received a suspended sentence.  A broader range of non-custodial sentences will offer better prospects for rehabilitation and therefore reduce costs to the state.

The new sentencing model to be adopted by the Liberal Government in response to the SAC report provides increased sentencing options to the courts, but with the clear expectation that prison is an appropriate sentence for serious and violent offenders where community protection is a key consideration, and non-custodial alternatives should be utilised for those offenders who do not pose the same level of risk and have good prospects for rehabilitation.

The Government is committed to properly resourcing the alternative sentences and that is why we have adopted the SACs proposed five year transition period.

Modelling of various scenarios conducted by John Walker as part of the SAC reference suggests that the full abolition of suspended sentences could cost around $10 million extra per annum. It should be noted that this figure is an estimate only and the Government has committed to a five-year transition period for these reforms. The Walker estimate would only apply at the end of the transition period. Furthermore, the estimate is not indicative of the actual implementation costs for the new sentencing options which are still to be determined. The alternative sentencing options to be introduced in legislation this year (extending Drug Treatment Orders to the Supreme Court, implementing fine without conviction and deferred sentencing) will not have a material budget impact. The introduction of home detention and the new Community Correction Order will be costed and resourced in the 2017-18 Budget.

Sentencing Advisory Council modelling of costs under current sentencing regime compared to a system with a wide range of alternative sentences

Sentence Type

Cost Per annum

No Change

Scenario 3

Number of Offenders

Average duration of Order (months)

Annual Cost ($million)

Number of Offenders

Average duration of Order (months)

Annual Cost ($million)

Imprisonment (with or without parole)
Supreme Court

$121,394

   

104

6.7

$1.317

 

Imprisonment without parole combined with a CCO.  Supreme Court

$121,394

195

11.8

$4.334

291

11.7

$6.407

 

Imprisonment (with or without parole)
Magistrates Court

$121,394

   

255

2.2

$1.678

 

Imprisonment without parole combined with a CCO. Magistrates Court

$121,394

749

5.1

$11.320

913

5.1

$13.931

 

Drug and alcohol treatment order with a two year review period

$26,000

  

0

30

24

$0.446

 

Home detention of up to three years

$10,958

  

0

36

18

$0.169

 

CCO of up to three years with or without a conviction

$10,958

  

0

753

14.9

$2.933

 

Fine with or without a conviction

$-

  

0

2419

0

0

 

Adjourned undertaking, conviction only, or a dismissal without conviction

$-

  

0

924

0

0

 
  

Total Costs ($million)

$15,654

Total Costs ($million)

$26,881

 
                 


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