All suspended sentences abolished from today

The Victorian Coalition Government’s abolition of suspended sentences takes full effect today, with suspended sentences no longer available for any offences committed in Victoria on or after today.

Attorney-General, Robert Clark said from today, Labor’s revolving door approach to justice was finally over and would-be offenders were on notice that suspended sentences will no longer be available in any court for any crime; jail will mean jail.

Suspended sentences were abolished from 1 May 2011 for all serious crimes coming before the Supreme and County Courts. From 1 September 2013, suspended sentences were abolished for all remaining crimes coming before the Supreme and County Courts. From today, suspended sentences are also abolished for crimes that end up before the Magistrates’ Court.

“With the abolition of suspended sentences in the Magistrates’ Court, the Coalition Government has delivered on its commitment to fully and completely abolish suspended sentences and restore truth to sentencing,” Mr Clark said.

“If a Magistrate does not believe an offender should go to prison, the law will in future require that to be done openly, instead of the law pretending an offender is going to prison while they actually walk free, usually without any supervision.”

In its 2006 report on suspended sentences, the Sentencing Advisory Council (SAC) recommended the staged abolition of suspended sentences in Victoria, finding that suspended sentences undermined public confidence in the justice system. Unsurprisingly, the former Labor government failed to act on this recommendation.

The SAC also recommended the abolition be coupled with significant reforms to community-based sentences. The Coalition Government has acted on this recommendation, replacing the previous range of community-based sentences with a single, flexible Community Correction Order (CCO), giving the courts a wide range of options for sentencing offenders they believe should not go to prison.

“Since January 2012, the courts have been able to impose CCOs and use greater powers and broad discretion to impose strict conditions and obligations on offenders who remain in the community,” Mr Clark said.

“While suspended sentences have allowed offenders to walk free from court without any supervision, CCOs allow an offender to be supervised and subject to conditions to protect the community and require the offender to address the cause of the offending.”

A CCO can require an offender to perform up to 600 hours of community work and can include curfews and prohibitions or restrictions on an offender entering licensed premises, entering specified areas or places, or associating with specified persons. 

Courts can also order an offender to attend treatment and rehabilitation programs and return to court for the judge or magistrate to check on their progress under the CCO.

“Today marks another milestone in the Napthine Government’s commitment to building a safer Victoria,” Mr Clark said.