Statutory minimum sentences for gross violence offences

15 Nov 2011

This report is the Sentencing Advisory Council’s response to a request from the Attorney-General for advice on the introduction of statutory minimum sentences for the offences of intentionally causing serious injury and recklessly causing serious injury when either offence is committed in circumstances of 'gross violence'.

The terms of reference from the Attorney-General require advice on the way in which a minimum fouryear non-parole period for adults, and a minimum period in detention of two years for children aged 16 or 17, might operate. The circumstances of gross violence suggested in the terms of reference are that an offender:

• plans in advance to engage in an attack intending to cause serious injury;

• engages in a violent attack as part of a gang of three or more persons;

• plans in advance to carry and use a weapon in an attack and then deliberately or recklessly uses the weapon to inflict serious injury; or

• continues to violently attack the victim after the victim is incapacitated.

The terms of reference indicate that a court should only be able to sentence below the statutory minimum in tightly defined exceptional circumstances.

The Council was specifically asked to provide advice on:

a. how the exceptional circumstances in which a court may impose a non-parole period of less than the statutory minimum sentence should best be specified;

b. how the factors making the offence one of gross violence to which the minimum sentence is applicable should best be specified;

c. the likely effects of recommendations and options put forward by the Council on sentencing levels for the relevant offences and on the numbers of persons serving custodial and non-custodial sentences; and

d. any other matters the Council considers relevant.

The terms of reference do not ask the Council to consider the merits of a statutory minimum sentence scheme. Consultation The Council consulted with a wide variety of criminal justice, governmental and non-governmental stakeholders and held two discussion forums. The Council made a public call for submissions and received 26 written submissions.

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