Her Excellency Professor the Honourable Kate Warner AC, Governor of Tasmania delivered the 2018 Law Oration in the historic Banco Court at the Supreme Court of Victoria. Over 130 people attended on a cold Melbourne night to hear about by Her Excellency’s research, including the Victorian Juries Sentencing Study.
The study surveyed almost a thousand jurors from County Court trials and explored their views on a range of sentencing questions, including severity, purposes, aggravating and mitigating factors and sentencing discretion.
The findings were fascinating – and at times worrying.
One of the most interesting findings compared jurors’ views on an appropriate sentence with judges’ actual sentences – and found 62 per cent of jurors were more lenient than judges. The type of crime made a difference, for example jurors were less likely to be lenient than the judge in sex offence trials than in those involving violence and other offences.
One of the findings about which Her Excellency expressed concern was the clear difference between juror and judicial views in relation to mental disorders and intellectual disability. Only 19 per cent of jurors considered mental disorder and intellectual disability as a mitigating factor in sentencing, whereas 83 per cent of judges did.
So, are judges out of touch? Only 25 per cent of respondents in the Victorian study thought so.