Understanding Queensland’s Approach to Serious Violent Crimes: Legislation and Sentencing Guidelines

Police officer attending violent crime with crime tape and police car

In Queensland, the handling of grave violent crimes falls under Part 9A of the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992. According to these guidelines, upon the conviction of an individual for a grave violent crime, the judiciary is mandated to prescribe a custodial sentence. This sentence must ensure that the convict is ineligible for release for at least 80% of their sentence or 15 years, whichever is shorter.

Why were these guidelines established?

The guidelines for grave violent crimes established in 1997 aimed to create a specific process within the existing legal system for punishing individuals convicted of such offenses. These laws were put in place to protect the safety of the community and were a response to public outrage over violent crimes. The Litigation Reform Commission, in its review of the Penalties and Sentences Act, noted that media reports at the time often portrayed the judiciary as being too lenient on criminals.

The 1997 amendment to the Penalties and Sentences Act concerning serious violent offenses mandated that individuals convicted of such crimes must serve at least 80% of their prison sentence before being considered eligible for parole or any other form of release, such as home detention or temporary leave.

Understanding the Queensland Sentencing Guidelines

Following the introduction of these guidelines, an individual is presumed to be convicted of a grave violent crime if:

  • They are found guilty of a crime listed in Schedule 1 of the Penalties and Sentences Act; and
  • They receive a sentence of at least 10 years for that crime.

Under these circumstances, the sentencing court must affirm the conviction as a grave violent crime as part of the sentencing process.

Furthermore, Section 161B of the Act allows for a sentencing court to identify a crime as a grave violent offence if:

  • The individual is found guilty of a specific offence; and
  • The sentence imposed is more than 5 but less than 10 years.

Here, the sentencing judge has significant discretion in deciding whether to issue a grave violent offense declaration, as it can have a substantial impact on the convict’s sentence.

Which offences are considered grave violent offences?

Schedule 1 of the Penalties and Sentences Act enumerates various violent and sexual offences as grave violent crimes, including:

  • Riot;
  • Carnal knowledge with or of children under 16;
  • Incest;
  • Maintaining a sexual relationship with a child;
  • Attempted murder.
  • Conspiracy to murder;
  • Grievous bodily harm;
  • Torture;
  • Wounding;
  • Dangerous operation of a vehicle;
  • Assaults causing bodily harm;
  • Serious assaults;
  • Rape;
  • Sexual assaults;
  • Kidnapping;
  • Robbery;

Additionally, a sentencing court may declare an offense a grave violent offense if it involved severe violence against another person or caused significant harm, and the convict was sentenced to imprisonment.

Sentencing for serious violent crimes follows general principles like deterrence, rehabilitating the offender, and protecting the community. Just because a crime is severe or involves violence doesn’t automatically make it a serious violent offense. The overall sentence should match these principles.

When deciding to label an offense as serious and violent, a court must look at the details of the offense and explain why the label is necessary.

If you’re facing a legal issue and need expert advice or representation, AKS Law Brisbane is here to help. Our team has a wealth of experience and a deep understanding of the law. Whether you’re dealing with a complex legal matter or need guidance on a simple legal issue, we are committed to providing you with the best possible legal assistance.


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