In Tasmania, the most severe penalty that a court can impose for criminal offences is imprisonment. There are four prisons in Tasmania. These are the Rison Prison Complex, which includes the Mary Hutchinson Women’s Prison, The Hobart Reception Prison and Ron Barwick Prison. Tasmania also has a youth detention centre, Ashley Youth Detention Centre, where young people under 18 are held. This page deals with imprisonment in Tasmania.
Many of the men and women held in Tasmania’s prisons are on remand.
A person is held on remand if they are charged with offences that are not dealt with immediately and refused bail. A person who is remanded remains in custody until their matter is finalised or until bail is granted.
If a person who has spent time in prison on remand is subsequently sentenced to imprisonment, the date of the sentence is usually backdated to the date they first came into custody. This may mean that they have already served more or all of their sentence when their matter is dealt with.
In Tasmania, prisoners who are on remand are housed in the Hobart Reception Centre, a maximum-security prison for both women and men.
Sentences of imprisonment
Under the Sentencing Act 1997, a person who is found guilty of offences in Tasmania may be sentenced to imprisonment if the offence carries a maximum penalty of imprisonment. A term of imprisonment may be suspended either in whole or in part. When two or more terms of imprisonment are imposed on the same offender, the terms may be made concurrent or cumulative.
Concurrent vs cumulative sentences
When two sentences are ordered to be served concurrently, they run at the same time. For example, if a person is sentenced to six months for Offence A and to eight months for Offence B, the total amount of time they will serve is eight months.
When two sentences are ordered to be served cumulatively, they run one after the other. For example, if a person is sentenced to six months for Offence A and to eight months for Offence B, they will serve a total of 14 months in prison.
A term of imprisonment may also be made partly concurrent with another term. For example, if a person is sentenced to six months for Offence A and to eight months for Offence B and the term s are made concurrent for the first three months, the person will serve a total of 11 months in prison.
When a court sentences a person to imprisonment, it may set a non-parole period. This is a date before which the offender will not be considered for parole. The person can apply to the Parole Board to be considered for parole when they reach the end of their non-parole period.
Decisions about parole will be made based on the person’s conduct in prison, the likelihood they will reoffend, the need to protect the public and other factors.
If a person is granted parole, they will be allowed to live in the community under strict conditions and under supervision. While on parole, the person is still serving their sentence. If parole is breached, they may be ordered to return to prison to serve the balance of their term.
When a sentence of imprisonment is suspended, the person is allowed to live in their home in the community provide they abide by strict conditions. If a person on a suspended sentence breaches the conditions of the order, they may be ordered to serve some or all of the suspended term.
Mandatory sentences of imprisonment
In Tasmania, some offences carry a mandatory sentence of imprisonment. This means that the court does not have discretion as to the penalty to impose but must order the defendant to serve no less than the minimum term set out under the legislation unless there are exceptional circumstances.
In Tasmania, courts may order a person who is sentenced to imprisonment to serve their sentence in the form of a Home Detention Order. Home Detention Orders require the person to live at a specified address and to comply with strict conditions, including electronic monitoring. This allows a person to serve their sentence while maintaining their connections to the community – for example, employment or study and care of children.
A court that is considering making a Home Detention Order must obtain a pre-sentence assessment of the person’s suitability for such an order.
In Tasmania, the Supreme Court may declare a person to be dangerous criminal if they have been convicted of a crime involving violence and are over 17 and where such a declaration is considered necessary for the protection of the community.
When an offender is declared a dangerous criminal they are not eligible for release until that declaration has been lifted. This means that once their sentence has been served, they will stay in prison unless the court discharges the declaration.
The maximum term of imprisonment that a Magistrates Court can impose for a single offence in Tasmania is 12 months for a first offence and five years for a second or subsequent offence.
The maximum term that the Supreme Court can impose for an offence is determined by the maximum penalty specified in the legislation. If no maximum penalty is specified for an offence, the general maximum penalty of 21 years imprisonment applies.
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