Date of this Version


Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Details

Published version

Field, D. (2012). Criminal sentencing - The geographical lottery. Precedent, Sept/Oct (112), 24-27. ISSN: 1449-7719

Access the journal

2012 HERDC submission. FoR code: 180110

© Copyright Precedent and David Field, 2012

This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of both the author and the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA). It was first published in Precedent, the journal of the ALA, in edition no. 112, focusing on the criminal law, in September/October 2012., pp24-7. For more information about the ALA, please go to




'POSITION, POSITION, POSITION' It is one of the Holy Grails of our criminal law that: 'Where the facts and circumstances of crimes and the subjective factors of those who commit them are the same, arguably equal justice requires that there be an identity of, and not different, outcomes in the punishment that they receive.' This time-honoured axiom of 'parity in sentencing' is, however, under threat from the continued organisation of Australian criminal justice along state and territory lines. The punishment actually received for any given crime in Australia is as much the product of the precise geographical location in which it is committed as it is the mood of the judicial officer passing sentence. There is no federal sentencing authority in Australia, and little opportunity or enthusiasm for guidance at High Court level. Consequently, so far as concerns the mechanisms for deterring and punishing crime, the states and territories have failed to progress beyond the status of independent colonies under the British Crown.



This document has been peer reviewed.


To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.