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As noted in the Sentencing Advisory Council (SAC) issues paper, the Victorian Government announced in May 2017 that it would introduce legislation in 2018 to establish a sentencing guidelines council in Victoria. In July 2017, the Attorney-General requested the SAC to advise him on the most suitable model, following broad stakeholder and community consultation. The issues paper has been designed to facilitate that consultation. In doing so, the issues paper provides information about examples from other jurisdictions and discusses key issues that will need to be addressed in establishing a sentencing guidelines council in Victoria. Further, preliminary proposals are offered in relation to some of these issues.
Significantly, the SAC is not seeking views about the threshold issue of the appropriateness or desirability of a sentencing guidelines council of Victoria.
As argued in Liberty Victoria's submission on the SAC sentencing guidance reference, we oppose the introduction of a sentencing guidelines council on the basis that there is no evidentiary basis to suggest that such an approach is necessary. Liberty Victoria remains steadfast in our rejection of reforms that appear to be founded upon an incorrect premise; that the Victorian criminal justice system has failed to promote consistency in sentencing, and therefore the public has lost confidence in it.
The Victorian criminal justice system has significant and sufficient mechanisms to promote consistency in sentencing. Parliament should be proactive and take a lead in the public arena in explaining the need for there to be a strong and independent judiciary, and to assist the community to understand that we all have a significant and inviolable interest in a criminal justice system that gives due weight to the rehabilitation of offenders.
We repeat that the need for such reform has not been demonstrated and we will continue to oppose any model that further erodes the separation of powers, and seeks to fetter the discretion of judicial officers to do justice in the case at hand.