Disbelieving Suspense: Suspended Sentences of Imprisonment and Public Confidence in the Criminal Justice System

By Freiberg, Arie; Moore, Victoria | Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, April 2009 | Go to article overview

Disbelieving Suspense: Suspended Sentences of Imprisonment and Public Confidence in the Criminal Justice System


Freiberg, Arie, Moore, Victoria, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology


This article examines the ambivalent nature of suspended sentences of imprisonment and public reactions to them. In Australia, and elsewhere, they have created confusion, have been in and out of political and judicial favour and have been repeatedly modified. The article discusses the Victorian Sentencing Advisory Council's review of suspended sentences, with particular reference to public perceptions of the sentence and the council's various proposals for reform. It examines, in particular, four issues relating to this sanction: (1) the meaning of punishment, (2) the severity of punishment, (3) truth in sentencing and the nature of substitutional sanctions and (4) the appropriateness of the sanction for specific offences. The article concludes with a discussion as to whether public perceptions matter in the broad sentencing context and notes that public perceptions are only one of a number of factors driving sentencing reform.

Keywords: suspended sentences, public confidence, sentencing

**********

There are a number of sanctions that strongly divide communities. Capital punishment, corporal punishment and mandatory sentencing are amongst the most controversial. Suspended sentences appear to especially polarise opinion and provoke high emotion. Views are widely divergent and strongly held. Unlike sanctions such as imprisonment, fines, probation and community service, suspended sentences have been in and out of favour in many jurisdictions over time, partly for criminological reasons (such as their impact upon prison populations), but often because of public perceptions about their role in the sentencing hierarchy.

This article reports on an inquiry conducted by the Victorian Sentencing Advisory Council between 2004 and 2008 into suspended sentences that arose from public concerns over a suspended sentence of imprisonment imposed for the offence of rape in 2004 (R v Sims [Unreported, County Court of Victoria, April 1, 2004]). It examines the role of the Sentencing Advisory Council in the political/criminological discourse in Victoria and the relationship between suspended sentences and public opinion.

The Background: A Public Outcry

In Melbourne in April 2004, a young man was convicted of one count of aggravated burglary, two counts of lingual and digital rape and one count of indecent assault and was given a sentence of 2 years and 9 months imprisonment suspended for 3 years. On appeal against the leniency of the sentence (Director of Public Prosecutions v Sims [2004] VSCA 129), judgment in which was delivered in July 2004, the Victorian Court of Appeal upheld the sentence by a 2:1 majority. The sentence was condemned in the popular press. A public protest by nearly 10,000 people on the steps of the Victorian Parliament House called for mandatory minimum sentences and the restriction or abolition of suspended sentences. (1)

The Response

The political response was a reference by the Attorney-General to the Victorian Sentencing Advisory Council (SAC) under section 108C(1)(f) of the Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic) requesting advice on the current use of suspended sentences and whether 'reported community concerns about their operation' indicated a need for reform, and if so, what those reforms might be. The Attorney expressed particular interest in the views of the community, including victims of crime, on this issue. This was significant not only because of the overt reference to the community's angst over what was perceived by some to be an inadequate sentence, but the reference to the council was consistent with its role as a mechanism for incorporating community views into the development of sentencing policy both through its membership, which is diverse, (2) and its consultative processes.

The Victorian Sentencing Advisory Council (SAC) was established in July 2004 to 'bridge the gap between the community, the courts and government by informing, educating and advising on sentencing issues' and was a product of a reformist government that was keen to project itself as responsive to community concerns (Freiberg, 2008). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Disbelieving Suspense: Suspended Sentences of Imprisonment and Public Confidence in the Criminal Justice System
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.