Minimum sentencing for serious offences: lessons from Australia

Kate Fitz-Gibbon, James Roffee

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review


There is currently no nationally agreed upon approach to the minimum sentencing of offenders convicted of a serious offense in Australia. While this is to be somewhat expected given that sentencing practices for criminal offenses are implemented at a state rather than national level, the last decade has seen a plethora of divergent sentencing reform activity across Australian state and territory jurisdictions. Interestingly, despite the motivation for reform often aligning and being connected with penal populist tendencies, the approaches introduced by individual Australian state jurisdictions concerning the minimum sentencing of serious offenses have differed significantly. This divergence affords an important opportunity to examine the merits and impact of minimum sentencing law, practice and its reform across the different Australian jurisdictions. This chapter will provide an overview and critical analysis of recent sentencing law reform activity across Australia with a focus on recently introduced laws for the minimum sentencing of serious offenses in Victoria and New South Wales. The chapter will document the different approaches that have been introduced in each state, overview the impacts of sentencing reform in practice, and consider the extent to which reforms introduced have impacted sentencing practice. Enhancements sought through the introduction of recent sentencing legislation have included achieving consistency in approach and outcome, more just outcomes for serious offenses, and improving public confidence in the sentencing process. As will be explored, it remains questionable if the reforms introduced have in each case achieved their intended goals in practice. The evolution of sentencing practice for serious offenses across Australia provides a worthy reference point and, in this case, a cautionary tale, for those seeking to reform sentencing laws and practice in other jurisdictions.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook on Sentencing Policies and Practices in the 21st Century
EditorsCassia Spohn, Pauline Brennan
Place of PublicationNew York NY USA
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9780429027765
ISBN (Print)9780367136499
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • courts
  • sentencing
  • minimum sentencing
  • mandatory sentencing
  • law reform

Cite this