Sentencing Purposes (Qld)

When Queensland courts impose sentences for criminal offences, they must be guided by section 9 of the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992. This provision set out the purposes for which penalties may be imposed in Queensland and applies whenever a person is sentenced under the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992. This page looks at sentencing purposes in Queensland.

Legislative guidelines

Under section 9, the only purposes for which a court may make a sentencing order are:

  • To punish the offender to the extend and in the way that is justified
  • To provide conditions that will help the offender to be rehabilitated
  • To deter the offender or others from committing similar offences
  • To make it clear that the community denounces the conduct
  • To protect the Queensland community
  • A combination or two or more of the above purposes.

Section 9 also sets out the principles that the court must have regard to when deciding on a sentence. These include that a sentence of imprisonment should only be imposed as a last resort; the nature and seriousness of the offence; any damage loss or injury caused; the offender’s age, character and intellectual capacity; the prevalence of the offence and any aggravating or mitigating factors.

Balancing different sentencing purposes

When a court is sentencing a person, one or more sentencing purposes may be more relevant than others. The court will therefore give those purposes a high priority when considering the orders to make. For example, if the offender is very young and it is their first offence, rehabilitation is likely to be a very important sentencing principle. If the offending is very seriousness and the person is a repeat offender, punishment and denunciation may be considered more important that rehabilitation.

Just punishment

A sentence may be imposed in order to punish the offender. The orders made should reflect the objective seriousness of the offences and the penalty should not be too harsh or too lenient.

A court imposing a sentence to punish a person for more than one offence must have regard to the totality of the offending. This means that the sentence imposed for each offence must be appropriate, but the aggregate sentence must also be proportionate to the level of criminality involved in the offending.


A sentence may be imposed with the aim of facilitating the offender’s rehabilitation into a law-abiding member of the community. A sentence aimed at rehabilitation will be tailored to address the causes of the offending. It may involve an order with conditions that the offender take part in programs such as drug or alcohol rehabilitation, training or community work.

Rehabilitation is a particularly important sentencing principle when a court is dealing with a young offender.


It is common for deterrence to be a major purpose for which a sentence is imposed. A penalty may be imposed in the interests of specific deterrence, in the interests of general deterrence, or in the interest of both specific and general deterrence.

General deterrence is the need to discourage the community at large from committing this sort of offence. It is most important in matters where the type of offending being dealt with is very common such as drink driving matters.

Specific deterrence is the need to discourage this particular offender from committing these sorts of offences in the future. It is more relevant in cases where the defendant is a repeat offender and the court considers they are likely to reoffend. In cases where the defendant is a child or has a mental illness that limits their capacity to understand or control their actions, specific deterrence will not be a priority.


A sentence may be imposed with a view to making a public statement that the community does not accept the defendant’s conduct. The principle of denunciation is particularly important when a person has committed offences that seriously violate the moral standards of the community – such as child sex offending.

Community protection

Courts may make sentencing orders in the interests of community protection. However, when community protection is a sentencing purpose, the penalty imposed must be appropriate to the offence that has been committed. A sentence must not be imposed as a protective measure to protect the community against future offending.

Sentencing young people

When a court sentences a young person, it must have regard to the sentencing principles set out in section 50 of the Youth Justice Act 1992 and the principles of youth justice set out in Schedule 1 of that Act.

When a young person is sentenced for criminal offences, the primary consideration is their development into a productive and law-abiding citizen. The sentence imposed must, so far as possible, promote their connection to their family and community and the continuation of their education. However, these considerations must also be balanced with the need to protect the community and hold the young person accountable for their actions.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.


Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws from Latrobe University, a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the College of Law, a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne and a Master of Arts (Writing and Literature) from Deakin University. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory. She also practised in family law after moving to Brisbane in 2016.
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