Concurrent and Cumulative Sentences (Qld)
In Queensland, it is common for courts to sentence offenders for two or more different offences at the same time. This can occur where several offences arise out of the same incident or where offences arising from separate incidents are dealt with at the same time. In this situation, the court may impose terms of imprisonment in respect of more than one offence. These sentences may be ordered to be served concurrently or cumulatively. This page deals with concurrent and cumulative sentences in Queensland.
The Penalties and Sentences Act 1992 governs whether terms of imprisonment are to be served concurrently or cumulatively in Queensland.
Under section 155 of the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992, when a court sentences a person to imprisonment and the person is already serving, or has been sentenced to serve, a term of imprisonment for another offence, the terms are to be served concurrently unless the court orders otherwise.
When a term of imprisonment is concurrent with another term, both sentences are served at the same time. For example, if a person is sentenced to five months imprisonment for Offence ,1 and 10 months imprisonment for Offence 2, the total effective sentence would be 10 months imprisonment.
Under section 156 of the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992, when an offender is serving, or has been sentenced to serve a term of imprisonment, and a court imposes a term of imprisonment for another offence, the court may make the sentences cumulative.
When a term of imprisonment is cumulative on another term, the second term is served after the first term has been served. For example, if a person is sentenced to five months imprisonment for Offence 1 and ten months for Offence 2, the total effective sentence would be 15 months imprisonment.
When sentence must be cumulative
Under section 156A of the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992, a term of imprisonment must be served cumulatively on any other sentence of imprisonment that the offender must serve if:
- The person is convicted of a schedule 1 offence; or
- The person is convicted of counselling or procuring a schedule 1 offence; and
- The offence is committed while the person is a prisoner serving a term of imprisonment; or
- The offence is committed while the person is released on post-prison community based release; or
- The offence is committed while the person is on leave of absence, from a term of imprisonment; or
- The offence is committed while the person is at large after escaping from lawful custody.
How courts decide whether sentence is concurrent or cumulative
When a court imposes imprisonment for an offence that does not fall within the ambit of section 156A, it may order the term to be served cumulatively on another sentence if it considers it appropriate to do so.
In deciding whether to order that a sentence be served cumulatively, courts consider a range of factors including:
- Whether the offences are of a similar nature
- Whether the offences were committed against the same victim
- Whether the offences arose out of one criminal enterprise
- Whether offences that were committed during the same episode are of a similar nature.
If there has been significant violence on two or more distinct and separate occasions, or where the victim is different, the court will generally order at least part of the sentence to be served cumulatively.
The totality principle
When a court sentences a person for multiple offences, the aggregate sentence that it hands down must be ‘just and appropriate’ to the totality of the defendant’s offending. The As well as ensuring the sentence imposed for each offence is fair and proportionate, it must ensure that the overall sentence is not too harsh or too lenient. It must consider what is the appropriate sentence for all the offending.
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