Individualised Justice through indigenous Community Reports in Sentencing

Thomson Reuters
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Judicial Administration, 2017, 26 (3), pp. 121 - 140
Issue Date:
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There is a growing pool of research on court outcomes in sentencing Indigenous people but relatively little research on the information available to sentencing courts to consider Indigenous background. Although Australian courts mostly have discretion to consider Indigenous circumstances, such consideration depends on submissions and reports tendered in court. The High Court in Bugmy v The Queen (2013) stated “it is necessary to point to material tending to establish [the defendant’s deprived] background” if it is to be relevant in sentencing.1 The main repository of court information on defendant background is counsel submissions and, where the defendant is facing imprisonment, Community Corrections’ Presentence Reports. Based on 18 interviews with judicial officers, lawyers and court staff in New South Wales and Victoria, this article identifies the need for more information on relevant Indigenous background factors in sentencing. The introduction of discrete Indigenous community reports that present Indigenous perspectives on the person’s background and rehabilitation was regarded as important for addressing the Bugmy requirement. This article makes reference to the wide-scale experience in Canada of First Nations presentence reports, known as “Gladue Reports”, and the more small-scale Australian experiences of Indigenous cultural reports, to indicate how this material can enhance individualised justice in sentencing Indigenous peoples.
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