Protecting Tasmanian Children

There is no justification for abusing a child and the community is right to demand the full force of the law is brought down on the perpetrator.

All victims of sexual abuse are victims for life. They deserve justice too.

There is no more important job for a government than helping to prevent sexual assault against children.

Labor will take an evidence based approach, strengthening penalties for sex offenders by providing Tasmanian courts with clear sentencing directions to reflect both the gravity of abhorrent crimes and community expectations.

The Sentencing Advisory Council has reviewed sentencing in sex offences, both broadly and specifically in relation to children and those reports recommend against mandatory sentencing.

Putting Children First

Labor will keep children safe in their communities and protect them from serious sexual assault.

That’s why Labor will employ an additional 20 child safety offices to bolster the child protection system so vulnerable children don’t fall through the cracks.

Labor will build an additional six Child and Family Centres so communtities have a central hub for support services.

And Labor will take an evidence based approach to strengthening penalties for sex offenders.

Labor’s Evidence Based Approach to Sentencing

The Sentencing Advisory Council recognises the need for more direction to be provided to the judiciary on the severity of sentences.

The report recommends that this can be achieved through the development of guideline judgements or presumptive non-parole periods.

Guideline judgments provide some guidance to the judiciary on sentencing. They can be presented as statements of general principle or include more specific factors that must be taken into account in sentencing and what the expected outcome is likely to be.

Their aim is to increase the severity of sentencing without impinging totally on judicial discretion in the way mandatory sentencing does, as well as increase consistency and transparency in sentencing.

The guidelines can be developed by the judiciary or by a sentencing advisory body.

New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia all have the power for their appellant courts to issue guideline judgments. Tasmania does not.

The Sentencing Advisory Council has recommended in its 2015 report that the option for the introduction of guideline judgements should be further explored.

Presumptive non-parole periods for sex offences against children can be set in two ways. Firstly, by specifying the number of years that must be served as part of a prison sentence known as a Standard Non-Parole Period or secondly, by providing a certain percentage of the term of imprisonment must be served before parole can be considered through a Standard Percentage Scheme.

Standard Non-Parole Periods act as a guide in sentencing. Judges retain the discretion to sentence a non-parole period above or below the Standard Non-Parole Period. This approach helps to increase consistency and transparency in sentencing without impinging on judicial discretion.

The Standard Percentage Scheme does not necessarily apply to all sex offences. For instance, in South Australia it only applies to serious repeat offenders.

The Sentencing Advisory Council in its 2015 report concluded that presumptive non-parole periods retain considerable judicial discretion and may provide a means to increase the sentencing range for offenders in specific offences.

The Sexual Assault Support Service has recommended:

  • the creation of two new offences aggravated sexual intercourse with a young person and maintaining a sexual relationship with a young person in circumstances of aggravation; and
  • A review of statutory aggravating and mitigating factors for sexual offences under the Sentencing Act 1997 (Tas) with the view of expanding the sorts of aggravating factors that should be taken into account in sentencing. The United Kingdom has developed a more comprehensive list as part of their guideline judgements, which may help guide reform in Tasmania.

Labor’s Initiatives

  1. A Labor Government will request the Sentencing Advisory Council to consult and report upon the introduction of guideline judgements and / or a presumptive non-parole period in Tasmania for sex offences and recommend which sex offence crimes it should apply to and in what form it should take, with a view of introducing legislative reform within the first two years of government.
  2. A Labor Government will request the Sentencing Advisory Council to provide advice in relation to the creation of two new offences: aggravated sexual intercourse with a young person and maintaining a sexual relationship with a young person in circumstances of aggravation.
  3. A Labor Government will request the sentencing Advisory Council to review the statutory aggravating and mitigating factors for sexual offences, with the view of expanding aggravating factors that should be taken into account in sentencing, in line with the approach taken in the United Kingdom.