Wednesday, January 15th, 2014
It is not uncommon for victims of serious crime to misunderstand the sentencing regime in Tasmania. This is not because the sentencing regime is beyond comprehension, but often because prosecutors give witnesses false ideas about the outcomes offenders face in the Justice System and about what the parole system means within that world view. A classic misunderstanding is about Life Sentencing.
To be clear, a Life Sentence is no more a literal definition than it is to say the Governor ever took personal succour from the sentencing of men to serve at the Governor’s Pleasure (also known as The Key, or more recently The Dangerous Criminals Act). Life Sentence or the Term of his/her Natural Life, at least in Tasmania during my lifetime, has not meant that someone will never be released. Although a Life Prisoner can be held, if circumstances and behaviour warrant, for their entire lives. Thus, the term Life in that particular phrase.
Tasmania last executed a prisoner at Campbell Street Gaol (from memory) in 1946 – the death penalty was abolished in Tasmania in 1968. At that point we commuted anybody sentenced to death into Life prisoners under a new Act invoking mandatory Natural Life sentences for murder and treason that were implemented through to 1994. At that point, Tasmania enacted the Criminal Code Amendment (Life Prisoners and Dangerous Criminals) Act 1994 that allowed for truth in sentencing and for existing Life Prisoners to apply for resentencing at the Court’s discretion under the new Law. In fact, Life Prisoners were told their only path out of Tasmanian prisons was through this application process. The Court could impose 16 years… or restate the Life sentence (with or without a non-parole period)… or any appropriate sentence in-between.