A/Prof. Melissa Bull1
1Griffith University, Mt Gravatt, Australia
In Australia authorities primarily rely on the identification of threshold quantities of various illicit drugs as an indicator of supply offences to discriminate between traffickers and users. Research indicates that this approach is problematic because in practice it can be difficult for the courts to discriminate between heavy users or ‘social suppliers’ (supplying to friends and acquaintances for little or no profit) and ‘dealers proper’. Erroneous sanction associated with threshold quantities, along with sentencing outcomes that are not proportionate in relation to the offence committed, seriously undermine the effectiveness of principles of general and individual deterrence that currently underpin drug law enforcement in Australia. Currently there is no qualitative systematic analysis of Australian sentencing outcomes that provides a nuanced account of how the judiciary currently navigate the relationship between different types of supply and the consistency and proportionality of the sentence applied. This research analyses 550 sentencing remarks for drug trafficking cases across Australian jurisdictions between 2012 and 2014. It maps out a demography and taxonomy of drug trafficking offenders and their offending behaviour, and concludes by discussing whether thresholds offer an effective technique for distinguishing between different types of supply.
Melissa Bull is an Associate Professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Griffith University. She has expertise in teaching criminology, sociology and policy related subjects and has taught across multidisciplinary programs. Melissa’s research interests include illicit drug regulation, justice responses for drug related offenders, punishment practices and community policing culturally and linguistically diverse communities. She has a strong interest in social and political theory, and in particular, the relationship between theory, policy and practice in the governance of crime.