Reimagining Sentencing: The Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council – Thinking differently

Ms Anne Edwards1, Mr John  Robertson1

1Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council, Brisbane, Australia

Sentencing Councils have a unique role. Not really academic, yet undertaking academic-style work. Independent of government, although government funded and resourced. Definitely part of the criminal justice ‘industry’, if there is such a thing, but not a direct service provider. And while definitely not a community-based organisation, the community is a central focus.

This paper looks at the work of the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council. QSAC is an independent body supported by a team of public service officers. The Council’s six legislative functions boil down to a dual remit:

  • sentencing reform – which requires a largely academic approach to a complex area of public policy, including consideration of criminal justice data and research (and undertaking primary research as needed), as well as legal analysis of case law, inter-jurisdictional comparison and consultation with different parts of the criminal justice community
  • community engagement – communicating with members of the public about sentencing, seeking their views, and providing more information about sentencing and how it operates.

In the mix, the Council has developed connections with the academic community, both in Queensland and nationally, having recently partnered with QUT to stage a national sentencing conference in August 2020. The Council contributes original research to the academic community on topic areas of reform interest, and has hosted forums for academics to present their sentencing research.

Drawing from each of these sectors – the academic, the broader criminal justice industry, the government and the community – the Council is in the perfect position to reimagine sentencing.


Anne Edwards, Director, Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council

Anne has been the Director of the Council Secretariat since it was re-established by the Queensland Government in 2016. She has held senior roles in the Queensland Public Service since 2010, largely in research and policy roles in various criminal justice agencies, including as the Director of the first Sentencing Advisory Council (2010–2012). Anne holds a Master of Arts (Criminology) and a Graduate Diploma (Policy Studies).

John Robertson, Chair, Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council

John Robertson retired from the District Court in 2018 after being appointed in 1994. He initially served as the first resident judge in Ipswich, moving to Maroochydore in 2001. He was a judge of the Childrens Court of Queensland throughout his judicial career and President of that court between 1999 and 2002. He was Deputy President of the Queensland Community Corrections Board between 1991 and 1994. John Robertson was regional convenor (Queensland) of the National Judicial College of Australia between 2002 and 2007 and is the author of the Queensland Sentencing Manual.

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