Court of Appeal to consider “guideline judgment”

The Court of Appeal will today hear Victoria’s first application for a guideline judgment under Part 2AA of the Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic). Because sentences are tailored to individual offenders, it can be difficult for judges to use past cases to guide future decisions.  A guideline judgment allows the Court of Appeal to provide a broad outline of principles and criteria to be applied in all cases. The Judicial College of Victoria explains: “Sometimes the guideline judgment represents an encapsulation of current practices, and its value lies in the marshalling of unwieldy primary source material. Other examples reflect an attempt to impose order on the chaos of inconsistent sentencing decisions.” Although the power to issue a guideline judgment was legislated in 2003, it has never been used. In the case to be heard tomorrow, the Director of Public Prosecutions has asked for guidance about the imposition of Community Correction Orders, a sentencing option that was introduced in 2012. Because this sentencing option is so new, judges do not have a body of precedent to guide their decisions. A guideline sentence would provide immediate clarity about how CCOs should be used.