Posted on 04. Feb, 2013 in News

Criminal sentencing practice in Victoria is set to undergo major reform under a State Labor Government, with Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews today announcing that Labor will introduce Jury Sentencing Recommendations for Serious Indictable Offences.

Under Labor’s plan, judges will be required to consult with the jury ahead of delivering a sentence to hear the juries’ views on an appropriate sentence.

“While judges must retain enough discretion to avoid serious injustice, it’s also important that the sentences they hand down are mindful of community expectations,” Mr Andrews said.

The key elements of Labor’s plan are:

• It would apply to serious indictable offences

• After a verdict of guilty is delivered, but before sentencing, jurors would be provided with the same information as the judge (Victim Impact Statement, Pre – sentencing report, any submissions by Counsel)

• The jury would provide the judge with their view of the appropriate range for the minimum non parole period, and

• While the judge would not be required to concur with the jury’s view, he or she would be required to reveal it in the sentencing judgement, along with reasons for disagreement with it, if relevant.

“Labor recognises that this is a substantial change, and we would legislate to allow the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the Chief Judge of the County Court to trial this new approach in their courts for a period of 12 months,” Mr Andrews said.

“We would expect a trial period to reveal any practical implementation issues, and after receiving feedback from the heads of jurisdiction, we would introduce secondary legislation to entrench the reform.”

Shadow Attorney General, Martin Pakula said the reform combined the best elements of judicial independence and recognition of community sentiment.

“This is an important reform, because it will ensure our legal system remains just, while at the same time improving the public’s confidence in our courts” Mr Pakula said

“It’s important that community expectations are reflected in sentencing practice. Labor believes the best way to make that a reality is for judges to confer with those men and women who’ve sat through the trial, and heard all the evidence – the jury.”

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