Judicial Supervision: Evidence, current practice, and implications for mainstream court settings

Dr Benjamin Spivak1, Magistrate Pauline Spencer2, Mr Michael Trood1, Professor James Ogloff1
1Centre for Forensic Behavioural Science, Swinburne University of Technology, Alphington, Australia, 2Magistrates Court of Victoria, ,


A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effects of judicial supervision on recidivism, health, lifestyle factors of criminal offenders

Objective: Judicial supervision is a key component of problem-solving courts. Meta-analytic research investigating the effectiveness of interventions that utilize judicial supervision has found mixed results. Research has yet to synthesize effects of judicial supervision on offender health and well-being outcomes. This presentation will present the results of a recent systematic review and meta-analysis that synthesized extant recidivism and well-being outcomes from empirical research that compared judicially supervised offenders with non-supervised controls. Implications for judicial supervision practice in mainstream settings will be discussed.

Victorian Magistrates perceptions and use of judicial supervision in mainstream settings

Judicial monitoring allows for an accused/offender to appear before the same magistrate on multiple occasions to encourage and monitor engagement in rehabilitation programs. While Victoria permits judicial supervision, the relevant law allows for extensive magisterial discretion in determining when the mechanism should be used (i.e. what are the characteristics of accused/offenders that are best targeted for judicial supervision), how it should be employed in practice, what techniques should be used in supervision hearings, how often review hearings take place, and what specific goals supervision should be aiming to meet.

This paper will outline the results of a research project aimed at addressing the lack of information around magistrates’ use and perceptions of judicial supervision. The research utilised surveys and semi-structured interviews to examine who was being targeted by judicial supervision and why, what types of supervision were utilised by magistrates (e.g. pre-plea, post plea, post sentence), what, if any, barriers to judicial supervision are perceived by magistrates, and what techniques are being used by magistrates in court review hearings when undertaking supervision.

Judicial Supervision of Criminal Offenders: Implications for practice

Bail and sentencing legislation in Victoria, Australia allows for judicial officers to require offenders to return to court for regular reviews before the same judicial officer.  This practice of ‘judicial supervision’ evolved out of the interdisciplinary legal philosophy of therapeutic jurisprudence and has been a common feature of specialist or problem-solving courts such as drug court and mental health courts. In mainstream Victorian criminal courts judicial supervision may be employed pre-plea (on bail), post plea (on deferral) and post sentence (as a judicial monitoring condition of a Community Corrections Order). Despite the existence of the legal framework, the approach to judicial supervision in practice varies.  Judicial officers have different purposes for judicial supervision, target different types of offenders, apply different approaches and methods.  Magistrate Pauline Spencer will reflect on the current state of research, the need for the development of a practice framework for judicial supervision and discuss implications for practice, judicial education and future research.


Dr Benjamin Spivak is a lecturer at the Centre for Forensic Behavioural Science, Swinburne University of Technology. His research interests lie primarily in the field of legal decision-making and he has published in areas such as risk assessment, public health and jury decision-making.

Magistrate Pauline Spencer sits at Dandenong Magistrates’ Court, Victoria, Australia.  She was appointed to the bench in 2006.  Prior to her appointment she worked as a private lawyer and then with community legal centres as a lawyer and in a policy role.  During this time she worked with people with addictions and wrote and spoke about the need for the justice system to find better ways of dealing with people who were committing offences as a result of addiction.  Since being appointed Magistrate Spencer has developed her interest in therapeutic jurisprudence and in particular its application in busy mainstream court setting.

Michael Trood is a PhD candidate at Swinburne University of Technology’s Centre for Forensic Behavioural Sciences. His general areas of interest are media effects on behaviour and therapeutic jurisprudence. His current research is investigating the utility of judicial supervision of improving offender outcomes across mainstream and specialty courts.

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