Last updated 4 July 2016

Indefinite sentences

An offender who is a serious danger to the community as defined in the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992 (Qld) (Penalties and Sentences Act), and who has been convicted of a violent offence can be given an indefinite sentence (pt 10). This means that no definite term of imprisonment is specified and that the prisoner can only be released by court order as a result of a periodic review of the prisoner’s circumstances. A violent offence is defined to mean an indictable offence that involves the use or attempted use of violence against a person and for which the offender may be sentenced to life imprisonment (e.g. murder, manslaughter, rape and armed robbery).

An indefinite sentence can only be imposed if the court is satisfied that the offender is a serious danger to the community because of the offender’s character, age, health, mental condition, the severity of the violent offence and any special circumstances.

In imposing an indefinite sentence, the court must state in its order the term of imprisonment that it would have imposed had it not imposed an indefinite sentence. This nominal sentence is relevant to reviews of the indefinite sentence and any future discharge of the order (s 171 Penalties and Sentences Act). For murder offences, the nominal offence will be 20 to 30 years, depending on the circumstances of the murder(s).

Suspended sentences

A suspended sentence of imprisonment is imposed when a court sentences an offender to a term of imprisonment and then suspends the whole or part of the sentence. This means that the offender serves either no actual imprisonment or only part of the term of imprisonment.

Sentences of imprisonment for five years or less may be suspended (s 144 Penalties and Sentences Act). In imposing such a sentence, the court must set a period of five years or less (the operational period) during which the offender must not commit another offence. If the offender commits another offence punishable by imprisonment during the operational period, the court must order the offender to serve the whole of the suspended period of imprisonment unless the court is of the opinion that it would be unjust to do so, taking into account certain consideration (e.g. whether the subsequent offence was of a trivial nature, but also the seriousness of the original offence) (s 147 Penalties and Sentences Act). If the court does not order that the offender serve the whole of the suspended period, it may order that part of that period be served, or (in certain circumstances) extend the operational period.

Parole does not apply to suspended sentences unless the whole sentence is later activated through the commission of a further offence within the operational period. Once the prisoner is required to serve the relevant sentence, the same general rules as to eligibility for parole apply to the sentence.

A court must record a conviction if an order of suspended imprisonment is made (s 143 Penalties and Sentences Act).