This paper summarises the debate about mandatory sentencing, outlines various measures adopted in New South Wales to place limits on judicial discretion in sentencing, and reviews mandatory sentencing laws in other Australian jurisdictions.
Introduction: Mandatory sentencing laws became a very controversial issue in Australia in the late 1990s when they were introduced for repeat home burglary offenders in Western Australia and for property offences in the Northern Territory.
In recent years, NSW and other States, including Queensland and Victoria, have introduced mandatory sentencing laws for other types of offences. The NSW Government is now proposing to adopt further mandatory sentencing laws, as a part of a range of measures to deal with alcohol-related violence. On 21 January 2014, the NSW Premier, Barry O’Farrell announced that the Government intended to introduce:
Eight year mandatory minimum sentence for those convicted under new one punch laws where the offender is intoxicated by drugs and/or alcohol, plus new mandatory minimum sentences for violent assaults where intoxicated by drugs and/or alcohol.
In NSW, mandatory sentencing laws have also been raised in debates about child sex offenders; and also in response to the spate of drive-by shootings involving bikie gangs in Western Sydney. A media report on 7 November 2013 suggested that the Government was considering introducing minimum five-year sentences for gang members illegally in possession of firearms.
This e-brief summarises the debate about mandatory sentencing. It further outlines various measures adopted in NSW to place limits on judicial discretion in sentencing, and it reviews mandatory sentencing laws in other Australian jurisdictions.