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Imprisonment In Melbourne

Imprisonment is the most severe penalty that a person being sentenced for criminal offences in Melbourne can incur. A term of imprisonment must be imposed only as a last resort when no lesser sentencing option is appropriate. In Melbourne, there are both privately and publicly operated prisons, including remand centres, minimum security and maximum security prisons. 

How Are Terms Of Imprisonment in Melbourne Determined?

When a court sentences a defendant to imprisonment in Melbourne, it determines the length of the term in relation to the maximum and minimum terms that apply to the offence. The court must not impose a sentence that is harsher than necessary to achieve the sentencing objectives in the matter.

The principles that govern sentencing in Victoria are:

  • Punishment, to the extent justified;
  • Deterrence, meaning the defendant and others are deterred from similar offending;
  • Rehabilitation, meaning the sentence encourages the offender to overcome their offending behaviour and facillitates this;
  • Community protection;
  • Denunciation, meaning the sentence is designed to send a message to the pubic that the offending is not acceptable.

Mandatory sentencing

Victoria has a mandatory sentencing regime in relation to particular offences. Courts must impose sentences of imprisonment for certain offences committed after 20 March 2017, including rape, murder, serious drug offences, recklessly or intentionally causing serious injury and child sex offences. Mandatory sentencing also applies to other offences committed after 28 October 2018 where these offences involve the risk of injury, including aggravated carjacking and aggravated home invasion.

Victorian courts must impose a sentence of imprisonment for intentionally causing serious injury, child homicide, kidnapping, manslaughter, arson causing death and some serious terrorist and drug offences unless there is a particular reason for not imposing imprisonment where the offence occurred after 20 March 2017. 

Where the offence occurred after 28 October 2018, these mandatory sentencing rules also apply to car jacking, home invasion, culpable or dangerous driving causing death, offences involving exposing an emergency worker to risk and armed robbery.

Life imprisonment in Melbourne

When a term of life imprisonment is imposed, the defendant remains in prison for the rest of their natural life. However, a non-parole period can be set. This is a date on which they can apply for parole.

Only the Supreme Court can sentence a person to life imprisonment in Melbourne. The court may refuse to set a non-parole period where it is not appropriate to do so. This means the offender will remain in prison until their death. 

Suspended sentences

Suspended sentences have been abolished in Victoria and when a court is sentencing a person for an offence committed after 1 September 2014, it cannot impose a suspended sentence. However, Victorian courts can still impose suspended sentences for offending that occurred before that date, but this power is limited.

Suspended sentences are terms of imprisonment where the offender is allowed to live in the community provided they abide by certain conditions and not commit an offence punishable by imprisonment. If the offender breaches the conditions of their suspended sentence, they are generally ordered to serve the term that has been suspended in prison unless there are exceptional circumstances. 

Indefinite Sentences of imprisonment in Melbourne

If the court believes a person seriously endangers the community, it can impose a term of imprisonment with no set end date. The person is then released only if the court is satisfied that they are no longer a serious danger to the community.

Continuing detention of sex offenders

The Supreme Court has the power to make an order for the continuing detention of a sex offender if it believes that the offender poses an unacceptable risk of committing further sexual offences. A continuing detention order has to be reviewed by the court at least once per year.

Terms of imprisonment and young offenders

In Victoria, courts can order offenders who are aged under 21 to serve their custodial sentence in youth detention rather than in adult prison. This dual-track system is designed to prevent vulnerable young people from entering adult facilities.

The court can make such an order for this to occur where it is convinced that the young person has good prospects of rehabilitation or where there is reason to believe that they are particularly immature, impressionable, or likely to be adversely influenced by the adult prison environment.

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

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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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