Judge For Yourself workshop aims to show the challenges and the complexity of sentencing.
Judge For Yourself workshop aims to show the challenges and the complexity of sentencing. Contributed

Workshop to offer insight into sentencing

WE ALL have an opinion but would you really like to know what it feels like to step in a judge's shoes?

If you have an appetite for judicial education, there will be a workshop held at the Maryborough Neighbourhood Centre later this month.

Members of the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council will visit Maryborough to offer an insight into the judicial system.

The council is made up of various lawyers working in government, prosecution, defence as well as psychologists.

The project is called Judge For Yourself.

Defense lawyer Dan Rogers said it was an education tool that gives the community the chance to effectively step into the judges shoes and undertake a sentence of a real case.

"We launched approximately two weeks ago and since then we've held a number of community events particularly around south-east Queensland and we are now looking at hosting similar events throughout the state.

"We are finding there is a real appetite for this kind of education around sentencing because sentencing occupies a large space in our public debate and its something the media report on quite regularly.

"As a community we only get snippets of what is a really complex process. The media only have a small window of time in which to report a case, so its not possible to report all of the competing considerations that effected a sentence outcome.”

Judge For Yourself aims to show the challenges and the complexity of sentencing.

"The reason why we are doing this is because there has been credible research undertaken that shows that when the community know all of the facts that go into a sentence decision they will typically impose a slightly more lenient sentence than judges or magistrates,” Dan said.

"So these perceptions that these judges are soft or lenient certainly aren't supported by the research that has been undertaken particularly in Victoria and Tasmania.”

The program is modelled similarly to the Victorian equivilent which is called You Be The Judge and it also allows a particpant to go through a number of cases and in Queensland and Victoria they are real cases which are de-identified and they hear from the prosecution, defence and the offender and then have a go at imposing the sentence. Participants then get to compare their sentence against the sentence that was actually imposed and against a median of what other people have imposed who have undertaken the exercise.

"Everyone is entitled to their opinion about a sentence that is imposed and I don't expect this education tool result in everyone suddenly being more satisfied with sentences that are imposed,” he said.

"It is a real focus on educating the community about the complex process that judges have to take into account on any sentence. There can be an extensive range of competing considerations and circumstances of the offence and of the offender are infinitely varied.”

The exercise can also be done online at www.qld.gov.au/judgeforyourself.

Members of the community can go on and pick one of the cases, go through the exercise of sentencing a real case.

"It is effectively a re-enactment of real cases which have been de-identified - the filming occurred in real courts and we have stuck as much as possible to the facts and the way it actually occurred in court.”

Members of the council will be available at the Maryborough Neighbourhood Centre during the exercise to give participants the opportunity to ask questions.

DETAILS

Judge for Yourself is being held at the Maryborough Neighbourhood Centre, 25 Ellena St on June 15 and 16, by the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council.

The sessions will run from 10-11.30am and 1-3.30pm.

Registration details are available on the QSAC website www.sentencingcouncil.qld.gov.au.



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