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Sentencing sex offences in Victoria: an analysis of three sentencing reforms

Sentencing Sex crimes Sexual assault Victoria

Evidence over the last decade indicates a perception that sex offences are sentenced too leniently in Victoria. Past research suggests that the community views sentencing practices for sex offences as being too low. Judicial commentary indicates that those same sentencing practices are inadequate and do not reflect the seriousness of the offences. And multiple legislative reforms have aimed to make prison sentences longer and mandatory.

In that context, this research has two aims:

  1. to determine whether there were any changes in how different types of sex offences were sentenced in Victoria in the decade from 2010 to 2019 (the reference period); and
  2. if there were any changes, to determine whether they were influenced by three sentencing reforms.

Overall, little has changed in the number of sex offences sentenced in Victoria each year or the sentence types imposed. However, some offences – particularly rape, incest, child sexual penetration and child sexual assault – received noticeably longer prison sentences by the end of the reference period, especially in 2019. The sentencing reforms, particularly standard sentences, seem to be at least partly responsible.

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