Supreme Court of Victoria emphasises importance of rehabilitation in sentencing process

By Paul Galbally

In a recent judgment, the Supreme Court of Victoria has emphasised the continued importance of rehabilitation in the sentencing process.

By examining the scope of Community Correction Orders, the Court has laid a pathway for the punitive effect of punishment to be satisfied through the use of Community Correction Orders thus providing a vehicle for offenders to escape the destructive effect of incarceration.

Community Correction Orders (CCO) are non-custodial orders, such as restricted movement orders, fines, community service or parole.

The application of Community Correction Orders clarified

In a significant guideline judgment, the Full Court of the Supreme Court in in the case of Boulton (reference below) has clarified how the sentencing option of a CCO (which has been available since January 2012) may be utilised by the Courts.

With the abolition of suspended sentences, there has been some uncertainty about the availability of a CCO to be utilised as a sentencing option in regard to serious offences.

This uncertainty has now been clarified. The Court described the CCO disposition as a flexible sentencing option enabling punitive and rehabilitative purposes to be addressed simultaneously.

Their Honours in examining the role and purpose of sentencing have expressed the opinion that CCOs “…may be suitable even in cases of relatively serious offences which might previously have attracted a medium term of imprisonment (such as, for example, aggravated burglary, intentionally causing serious injury, some forms of sexual offences involving minors, some kinds of rape and some categories of homicide)”.

The Court in its wisdom refused to place any outer limits on the availability of this sentencing option. This means….. The CCO can also be combined with a term of imprisonment.

The implication of the case of Boulton findings

The guideline judgment is a watershed moment in sentencing jurisprudence and will provide Courts with enormous flexibility in sentencing offenders.

Whether the CCO is capable of fulfilling its potential as a sentencing tool will depend very much on whether the Government is prepared to provide the necessary resources to supervise offenders.

The Act contemplates judicial monitoring in order to review the offender’s compliance with an order. Although it can be suggested that the latter adds a further burden and cost to an already overworked judiciary and costly criminal justice system, the Court has stated that linking a judicial officer to an offender assists with compliance with Court Orders by way of encouragement to the offender.

No doubt any taxpayer funds spent in this way will be far more rewarding to the community than spending money on building prisons.

Case reference: Boulton v The Queen Clements v The Queen Fitzgerald v The Queen [2014] VSCA 342