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Judicial Sentencing Policy, Criminological Expertise and Public Opinion

NCJ Number
Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology Volume: 31 Issue: 3 Dated: December 1998 Pages: 287-313
A Lovegrove
Date Published
27 pages
After assessing whether judicial sentencing in Australia is founded on a well-informed policy, this paper makes a case for the judicial development of a more comprehensive and criminologically well-founded sentencing policy, along with appropriate community involvement in this process.
Currently, judicial sentencing in Australia is not grounded in a well-informed policy, because it is not characterized by an articulated, common, comprehensive, and coherent penal policy; does not refer to criminological evidence; and does not have informed public involvement. The problem is at the appellate level, which provides no guidance for trial judges on sentencing. To determine sentences in individual cases, judges must interpret the information relating to the particular victims, offenses, and offenders. This, in turn, requires reference to a policy about what aspects of a case are significant, how these factors are to be organized in determining a sentence, and the sentence appropriate to the various combinations of the case facts. The author's proposal for transforming judicial sentencing from instinctive synthesis to well-informed policy involves five elements. First, its implementation would be offense-specific; second, the Court of Appeal would develop a comprehensive and coherent sentencing policy; third, this sentencing policy, including associated explanations and justifications as well as the criminological information base, would be made public; fourth, the policy would be presented as a guideline judgment by the Court of Appeal; and fifth, a policy and research group would be established and attached to the Court of Appeal to help the judges give effect to this general proposal. 67 references