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Reduced sentence discount laws start today

2 November 2020

Laws that will significantly reduce the discounts available to serious criminal offenders for early guilty pleas will come into effect today. 

Attorney-General Vickie Chapman said this legislation corrects a problem created in 2013 when the former Labor Government introduced discounts of up to 40 per cent for serious offenders entering an early guilty plea 

"40 per cent discounts for indictable offences for an early guilty plea have resulted in far too many sentences that didn't reflect the seriousness of the crime," the Attorney-General said. 

Examples of excessive sentence discounts handed down include: 

  • Andrew Hallcroft, in the so-called wheelie bin murder, received a 30 per cent discount and just a 15 year non-parole period for the brutal stabbing and dismemberment of Allan Ryan
  • Timothy James Chesterman, who sexually abused a 13 year old boy with a mild intellectual disability had his sentenced reduced by nearly 40 per cent - from 12 years in jail to seven years, three months. 
  • Alexander Wooldridge, who was sentenced to five years, six months for causing death by dangerous driving, had his sentence reduced to three years, four months for a fatal crash that killed four people and seriously injured another. 

"We have acted on the recommendations of the Martin Review, developing a system that is fairer, more in line with community standards and ensures the courts take into account a broad range of factors when imposing a sentence and determining the appropriate reduction," Attorney-General Chapman said. 

The new laws mean that guilty pleas for some major indictable offences - such as manslaughter, causing death by dangerous driving, rape and unlawful sexual intercourse - would be eligible for a discount of: 

  • Up to 25 per cent (reduced from 40 per cent) where the guilty plea is entered within four weeks of the first appearance 
  • Up to 15 per cent (reduced from 30 per cent) where the guilty plea is entered after the first four weeks but on the day of, or before, the committal appearance
  • Up to ten per cent (reduced from 20 per cent) where the guilty plea is entered from the day after the committal appearance until the defendant is committed to stand trial
  • Up to five per cent (reduced from 15 per cent) where the guilty plea is entered between when the defendant has been committed to stand trial and immediately after the first arraignment date
  • Up to five per cent (reduced from ten per cent) where the guilty plea is entered after the first arraignment date but prior to the commencement of the trial - where the court is satisfied where there is a good reason to do so. 

"The goal here is to strike the right balance between encouraging early guilty pleas, while ensuring justice is seen to be done," Attorney-General Chapman said. 

"Clearly, a 40 per cent reduction was seen as far too lenient, and this new regime should give the community greater faith in the sentences handed down in these serious matters."