Qld violent offences scheme 'needs reform'

·3-min read

A review of serious violent offences in Queensland has found the state's scheme isn't meeting its objectives, with 26 recommendations put forward to the attorney-general.

The SVO scheme was introduced in 1997 over concerns about community safety amid violent offences.

In the current laws, once a person is declared convicted of a SVO they are not eligible to apply for parole until they have served the lesser of either 80 per cent of their sentence or 15 years' imprisonment.

Proposed reforms from the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council recommend giving judges the right to consider individual circumstances to decide parole eligibility within a set range of 50 to 80 per cent.

In its final report, the council recommended changing the Serious Violent Offences scheme in the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992 (Qld), to apply presumptively to certain serious offences for sentences over five years.

"The council believes a sentence of more than five years for offences that will be captured under the new scheme is a more accurate measure of offence seriousness - particularly given that sentences for many serious sexual violence offences and non-sexual violence offences fall under 10 years," the report said.

Council Chair John Robertson said data showed there were only a small number of discretionary declarations being made for sentences of less than 10 years under the current SVO scheme.

"Victims of serious offences told us that when a discretionary declaration is not made in these circumstances, it can profoundly decrease their satisfaction with the sentencing outcome," he said.

The scheme's current 80 per cent fixed non-parole period raised concerns regarding the duration of serious violent offenders on supervised parole and the number of offenders who do not apply for parole at all.

Other recommendations put forward include creating a new and separate schedule of offences subject to the scheme including crimes like child exploitation material, choking, suffocation or strangulation in a domestic setting, and female genital mutilation.

Other, less violent crimes should be removed from the new scheme, the council said.

It also recommended changing the name to the Serious Offences Scheme as a reflection that not all serious offences, such as those involving drugs, are violent.

"This will result in a less divisive description and will carry fewer risks of limiting the scheme's application in the way the current focus on serious 'violent' offences has," the report said.

Also put forward was keeping serious drug offences in sentences 10 years or more in the scheme, to indicate the serious harm these offences cause to the community.

"Given serious drug offences cause - or carry a significant risk of causing - a high level of harm, the council determined serious drug offences should be included in the reformed scheme," the report said.

"The council recommends the scheme apply in a presumptive way to serious drug offences only if the sentence is one of 10 years or more."

The comprehensive SVO scheme report included a literature review, data analysis, a review of case law and sentencing remarks, as well as interviews with subject matter experts.

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