Liquor and Gaming NSW

​Law Reform Commission Report on Sentencing

Issued: Thursday, 12 September 2013
[PDF, 116kb]

Attorney General Greg Smith SC today tabled the Law Reform Commission’s report on Sentencing and released the Government’s interim response.

“Sentencing is a fundamental aspect of the criminal justice system, but one which over recent years has become unnecessarily complex,” Mr Smith said.

“Reviewing this complex area of the law was a Coalition election commitment and I am pleased we can now move ahead with examining the recommendations and deciding how to improve sentencing laws.”

“Sentencing law needs to be efficient and simple to promote an open and transparent justice system which can be easily understood by members of the public.”

“Sentencing needs to fit the crime and individual circumstances, it needs to recognise the harm done to victims, it needs to punish the offender, deter others and protect the community.”

“We will continue to drive reform, like our Serious Offender Legislation, that sees serious criminals punished appropriately for their crimes and that ensures the community can feel safe. We are committed to giving the state’s judicial officers the best, most workable and transparent laws to ensure justice is served.”

“The Law Reform Commission has made nearly 100 recommendations about such diverse issues as the principles of sentencing, aggravating and mitigating factors, custodial and non-custodial sentences, and diversionary programs.”

The Government has already adopted the Commission’s recommendation on Standard Non-Parole Periods and asked the Sentencing Council to make recommendations about the offences to be included in the Standard Non-Parole Period table, their appropriate periods, as well as the process for adding future offences. The council will prioritise its consideration of child sexual assault offences to inform the parliamentary committee on Sentencing of Child Sexual Assault Offenders.

“It is a comprehensive and thorough report and I thank the Commission and its chairperson, Justice James Wood AO QC, for their work on this report.”

“We will consider the remaining recommendations before releasing a final response.”

The Law Reform Commission’s report is available at:​​​    

Law Reform Commission Report #139 Sentencing
Interim Response

In September 2011, the Attorney General commissioned the NSW Law Reform Commission to review the sentencing laws in NSW, having particular regard to:

  1. current sentencing principles including those contained in the common law

  2. the need to ensure that sentencing courts are provided with adequate options and discretions

  3. opportunities to simplify the law, whilst providing a framework that ensures transparency and consistency

  4. the operation of the standard minimum non-parole period scheme; and

  5. any other related matter.

The report was commissioned to inform the Government in its aim to ensure our criminal justice system works as efficiently and effectively as possible. The New South Wales sentencing laws have become unnecessarily complex, leading to a number of appeals. Appeals delay final judgments and extend the trauma for victims of crime as well as imposing extra, avoidable cost on the system.

This review of sentencing laws was a Coalition election commitment. The Government is committed to clarifying and simplifying sentencing laws, ensuring appropriate sentencing options are available to judges and magistrates, and enhancing the transparency of and public confidence in the justice system.

The Commission put out question papers and considered more than 50 submissions and in July 2013 produced its final report.

The Government thanks the Commission for its work and this comprehensive report.

The Government is today tabling this report, noting the Commission has made nearly 100 recommendations.

The Government will be considering the Commission’s recommendations carefully before announcing a final position on the recommendations.

One of the Law Reform Commission’s proposals is an expansion of the cannabis cautioning scheme to other drugs. The existing cannabis cautioning scheme will continue. The Government does not support an expansion of the scheme to other drugs.

The government further believes the Commission’s proposal to allow judges to set a parole period for life sentences would require extensive community debate before being pursued. Since the enactment of the Sentencing Act 1989, life has meant life in NSW. The Government believes this policy has wide community support and is committed to the current law.

The Commission’s report on Sentencing contains a large number of detailed proposals and the Government is committed to consider them in detail before responding.

The Government expects to provide a more detailed response to the proposals by the end of this year, with a view to introducing reform of sentencing legislation next year.