Principles of sentencing

Document Type


Publication details

Mackenzie, G, Stobbs, N & O'Leary, J 2010, Principles of sentencing, Federation Press, Annandale, NSW. ISBN: 9781862877580


Sentencing of offenders is often described as a difficult task, requiring as it does the balancing of many different factors; often disparate and sometimes inherently contradictory. Sentencing is defined as “the process by which people who have been found guilty of offending against the criminal law have sanctions imposed upon them in accordance with the law” It is this task which is examined in this book.

The major change in sentencing in Australia over the past 20 years has been the enactment of provisions to govern the sentencing process, and in most Australian jurisdictions, the enactment of dedicated sentencing legislation. This legislation has set out, to various extents, sentencing guidelines and principles. As will be seen however, a wide judicial discretion is available for almost every factor to be taken into account in the sentencing process, and in the choice of sanctions. In Australia, decisions of which penalty to impose, and the quantum of that penalty, are virtually always a matter for the individual sentencer in their exercise of judicial discretion. This differs from the situation in other countries, in particular many jurisdictions in the United States.

This book takes a principled approach to sentencing, by exploring key themes and issues which will resonate across and between jurisdictions, and by analysing examples from the various jurisdictions where appropriate. Each Australian jurisdiction now has sentencing principles enshrined in legislation, mainly discrete, but some incorporated within general criminal legislation. The book explains the legislation in the various jurisdictions.