Imprisonment of Australia's Indigenous Offenders: Bugmy v The Queen [2013] HCA 37; Munda v Western Australia [2013] HCA 38

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Twenty-seven per cent of Australia's imprisoned population is of an Indigenous background, although only 2.5% of its population is of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island descent. In Bugmy v The Queen [2013] HCA 37 and Munda v Western Australia [2013] HCA 38, the Australian High Court addressed the proposition that the Indigenous background of criminal offenders should itself constitute a mitigating factor for the sentencing judge. It rejected this proposition, distinguishing Canadian law on the subject, and emphatically determining that each case must be determined on an individual basis, to evaluate whether the violent and deprived background of an offender, whether or not Indigenous, should be regarded as mitigating their moral culpability. The High Court's decisions focus the issue of the scandalous prevalence of imprisonment of Indigenous offenders where it belongs - on the social and health precipitants to criminal conduct - and highlight the need for effective, assertive and collaborative responses to the issue as a matter of increasing urgency by Australia's governments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)799-811
Number of pages13
JournalPsychiatry, Psychology & Law
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Aboriginality
  • alcohol abuse
  • drug abuse
  • fetal alcohol syndrome
  • health issues
  • human rights
  • imprisonment rates
  • Indigeneity
  • sentencing
  • violence

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