The Sentencing Advisory Council today released its report Calculating the Baseline Offence Median. It aims to assist Victorian courts and legal practitioners, as well as interested members of the general community, to understand the implications of the recent Sentencing Amendment (Baseline Sentences) Act 2014 (Vic) (the Act) for current sentencing practices.
The Act provides that the baseline sentence is ‘the sentence that Parliament intends to be the median sentence for sentences imposed for that offence’. Median (midpoint average) sentences have been set for six offences as follows:
- culpable driving causing death (9 years)
- incest (10 years)
- persistent sexual abuse of a child under 16 (10 years)
- sexual penetration of a child under 12 (10 years)
- trafficking in a large commercial quantity of a drug (14 years)
- murder (25 years).
In the report, the Council explains:
- basic information about medians and how they are calculated
- the baseline median counting rules set under the Act, and how these rules differ from those used in the Council’s Sentencing Snapshot series
- the difference between current baseline medians and the medians set under the Act
- how the median sentence for an offence will vary according to the number of years’ sentencing data analysed
- why it is difficult to predict what new sentencing patterns will emerge following implementation of the Act
- that baseline medians can be achieved even if courts impose non-imprisonment sentences for baseline offences, and/or imprisonment sentences that diverge from the baseline median.
The Council is offering information sessions for stakeholders in the criminal justice system to explain the report and promote understanding of baseline medians.
Chair of the Sentencing Advisory Council, Emeritus Professor Arie Freiberg said, “Baseline sentencing is complex and it will be a challenge for the courts and legal profession to implement. I hope this report gives all stakeholders in the criminal justice system the information they need to understand some of the issues and deal with the challenges involved with baseline sentences.”