UPDATE: Below is a record of what appeared on YourSAy during the engagement process from 5 October 2018 – 23 November 2018.
We want to hear your views on the current sentencing reduction scheme.
What is being decided?
As part of changes to sentencing laws in 2013, a scheme was introduced where offenders would receive a reduction of their sentence for cooperating with authorities or if they were to plead guilty at an early stage in proceedings.
Prior to these changes, offenders were able to receive a reduction on their sentence for pleading guilty early, but the amount of the reduction was up to the discretion of the sentencing court. This meant that in many cases there was less transparency about specific reductions that had been applied.
The intent of this scheme is to create transparency and encourage early guilty pleas that would save victims, witnesses and their families the difficult process of returning to court on numerous occasions and having to relive the trauma of the incident by giving evidence in court.
In 2015, former Supreme Court Judge the Hon Brian Martin AO QC undertook an inquiry into the operation of the scheme and in March 2018 the scheme was amended.
In September 2018, Mr Martin was appointed by the Attorney-General to undertake an inquiry into the current scheme. Mr Martin has been asked to consider a number of issues including:
• whether or not the current scheme strikes the appropriate balance between the benefit to the community of an early guilty plea by a defendant, and the need to ensure that a defendant is adequately punished for the offending behaviour and held accountable to the community for the offending behaviour
• whether the current scheme has improved the operation and effectiveness of the South Australian criminal justice system, and provided transparency in respect of sentences given to offenders.
Community and expert feedback is therefore being sought to inform Mr Martin’s inquiry.
Read the current legislation in relation to the Sentencing Discount Scheme (Part 2, Division 2, Subdivision 4 of the Sentencing Act 2017).
You can provide input by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
How will your input be used to influence the decision?
Your input will be used to inform Mr Martin's recommendations to the State Government of South Australia.
For general enquiries, email email@example.com.
Closing date: Friday 23 November 2018.
Important information about the confidentiality of your submission
You have the option of making a confidential submission. If you do not want the public to read your answers, please write “confidential” on your submission. Please be aware that unless you write “confidential” on your submission it may be made public.
If someone asks for your answers through the Freedom of Information Act process, and if you have told us your answers are confidential, we will contact you and explain what is happening.
However, we have to follow the law. Even if your answers are confidential, we may still have to let someone read your confidential answers, if they ask for them through the Freedom of Information Act process.
Courts across Australia have the discretion to reduce an offender’s sentence as a result of an early guilty plea. Since 2013, South Australia has set out the different maximum reduction levels that can apply at different stages of a criminal matter in legislation. This ensures the community has a clear understanding of the maximum sentencing reductions that can apply at various stages in a criminal proceeding.
Recent amendments to the legislation also require the court to be clear about what the full sentence would have been if an early plea had not been entered. Prior to the introduction of the legislation, offenders were able to receive a reduction on their sentence for pleading guilty early, but the amount of the reduction was up to the discretion of the sentencing court. This meant that in many cases there was less transparency about specific reductions that had been applied.
At present, the level of reduction is set at up to a potential maximum of a 40 per cent when the plea is entered within four weeks of the defendant’s first appearance in court. For a guilty plea entered after that four week period, incremental reductions are available – ranging from a potential maximum of 30 per cent for guilty pleas made soon after that four week period down to a potential maximum reduction of ten per cent for guilty pleas entered later.
In South Australia, the sentencing reductions are not fixed. That is, a person does not have their sentence reduced by the maximum percentage automatically. In working out the actual reduction to be applied, the court must have regard to a range of factors, including whether the reduction would result in a sentence that is so disproportionate to the offence that it would affect public confidence in the administration of justice.
A reduced sentence is also available for offenders who cooperate with law enforcement agencies where that cooperation:
• relates to organised crime activity
• is provided in exceptional circumstances and
• contributes significantly to the public interest.
The legislative scheme first came into effect in March 2013, and was amended in March 2018.
Read the Inquiry into South Australian Reduction of Sentences Scheme Terms of Reference, as submitted to the Hon Brian Martin AO.