Review recommends cutting sentencing discounts

Significantly lower sentencing discounts would be available to serious offenders who admit their guilt within four weeks of their first court appearance, under recommendations made through an independent review of South Australia’s sentencing discount scheme.

In September last year, the Marshall Liberal Government appointed retired Supreme Court Judge the Hon Brian Martin AO QC to review the scheme, following concern about the way the scheme has been operating.

“Mr Martin has conducted an exhaustive review, clearly listening to all sides of the debate – including representatives of the legal fraternity, victims of crime and experts in the field – and I thank him for his comprehensive work,” Attorney-General, Vickie Chapman said.

“I also thank those victims of crime who were brave enough to recount their experiences to Mr Martin and offer up their views on how the system is currently working.”

Attorney-General Chapman said that Mr Martin’s primary recommendations included:

  • Reducing the proportion of the maximum discount available in exchange for an early guilty plea for indictable charges
  • Establishing a two-tiered system, with significantly lower discounts on offer for early guilty pleas relating to more serious matters
  • Ensuring that the motivation behind a guilty plea and the strength of the prosecution evidence are considered when determining the size of any reduction in sentence.

“At present, a guilty plea for a serious offence – such as murder or manslaughter – within four weeks of the first court appearance could attract a discount of up to 40 per cent,” Ms Chapman said.

“If Mr Martin’s primary recommendations are accepted, that amount would be cut to a maximum of 25 per cent, barring rare and exceptional circumstances.”

“And some other offences, which currently attract a discount of up to 40 per cent for a guilty plea within the same period, would be eligible for a discount of up to 35 per cent.”

Ms Chapman said the Government was considering Mr Martin’s findings with a strong view to reforming the system so that it better meets community expectations while ensuring any sentencing outcomes act as a more effective deterrent for the perpetrators of serious crime.

Mr Martin’s review can be found at: