Mandatory sentencing refers to the practice of parliament setting a fixed penalty for the commission of a criminal offence. Mandatory sentencing was mainly introduced in Australia to: prevent crime, to incapacitate the offenders, to deter offenders so they don’t offend again, to create a stronger retribution and to eliminate inconsistency. There is a firm belief that the imposition of Mandatory sentencing for an offence will have a deterrent effect on the individual and will send a forcible message to the offenders. Those in favour argue that it will bring consistency in sentencing and conciliate public concern about crime and punishment.
The recent publicity around Mandatory sentencing makes us think that it is a new idea but in fact it has a long history in the Australian legal system. In Western Australia, under the 1996 amendments to the criminal code, an adult or juvenile offender convicted of the third time or more of home burglary would automatically receive a 12-month imprisonment or detention. These amendments are colloquially referred to as the “three strikes and your out rule”.
Mandatory sentencing laws were introduced in NSW in the late 1990s due to increasing problems with crime and the current difficulties of repeat burglary offences in Western Australia and for property offences in the Northern Territory. The NSW Government is now proposing to adopt further Mandatory sentencing laws; to deal with a range of alcohol fuelled violence. On the 21st of January 2014, the NSW Premier, Barry O Farrell, announced that the government intended to introduce an eight-year mandatory sentence for those convicted under new one-punch laws, where the offender is intoxicated by drugs and/or alcohol and for violen...
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... were brought in place to eliminate the factors that can determine an appropriate sentence. Furthermore there is a lack of convincing evidence to suggest that the validations often given for mandatory sentences-retribution, effective deterrence, incapacitation, denunciation and consistency- achieve the set aim. On the other hand, this system can produce unjust results with significant amounts of economic and social costs without a clear and direct corresponding benefit towards crime reduction. To conclude, mandatory sentencing schemes undermine community confidence in Judges and the legal system to administrate justice and to deliver appropriate sentence outcomes. The fact that there is no clear evidence for this shows that when people are informed about the circumstances of a case, there support provided influences the outcome and therefore must never be overlooked.
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