Research Monograph 38 – Sentencing Commonwealth drug offenders

Research Monograph 38 Cover - Sentencing Commonwealth Drug Offences

Paperback, 138 pp, June 2014, ISBN 9780731356355
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In a federation of States and Territories, it is essential for the punishment of Commonwealth offenders that like cases are dealt with in a like manner so far as possible through the consistent application of sentencing principles. This study discusses this issue in the context of the serious drug offences in Pt 9.1 of the Criminal Code (Cth) and presents a national empirical picture of the sentencing patterns for these offences which relate to the importation and possession of border controlled drugs, plant and precursors and, since 6 December 2005, to the trafficking, selling or manufacture of controlled drugs, plants and precursors. Broadly, this study:

  • explores some of the issues which may affect achieving consistency for offenders who are being sentenced for Commonwealth serious drug offences
  • discusses the key sentencing principles that apply to offenders charged with these offences
  • discusses the tools available to a judge to assist them in achieving consistency when sentencing such an offender
  • examines the extent of consistency in the sentences imposed and the non-parole periods fixed for these offences from 1 January 2008 to 31 December 2012.

The analysis undertaken in this study demonstrates that, while there is national consistency of approach by the higher courts, at some fundamental levels there are also some apparent inconsistencies. For example, offenders in Victoria, Queensland and South Australia are sentenced more leniently for these offences than those in NSW; there are differences around Australia in the rates of non-parole periods relative to head sentences; and, the sentences imposed for drugs such as GBL appear more lenient than those imposed when an offence involves drugs such as heroin, cocaine and ecstasy.