Robertson O’Gorman received instructions to appeal a sentence for a client that had previously been represented by another firm. He had pleaded guilty to trafficking methylamphetamine, among other related charges. For this, he was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment. Importantly, this meant that a serious violent offence declaration was made and as such, he was required to serve at least 80 percent of that time in custody. Under other circumstances, it is common practice for a defendant to serve only one third of the sentence before being eligible for parole or a suspension of their sentence.

On appeal, it was argued that the sentence imposed was manifestly excessive because it did not properly take into account the client’s youth or the time spent in pre-sentence custody. The client was aged 18 to 19 at the time of trafficking, but the sentencing judge had been led to believe the offending continued to until the client was 21 years old. The courts in Queensland place significant weight on the age of an offender when sentencing. Notably, they distinguish between ‘extreme youth’, which is considered to be between the ages of 17 and 19, and ‘youth’ which is up to the age of 21. This distinction is due to the fact that prospects for rehabilitation are generally considered to be much higher for younger offenders, especially when they have no previous convictions.

One further issue addressed on appeal was whether the sentence of a co-offender, and in particular the making of a serious violent offender declaration, should affect our client’s prospects of a reduced sentence. The Court of Appeal accepted our argument that parity may be displaced by a legislative provision that results in the mandatory imposition of such orders.

Our client was resentenced to 9 years’ imprisonment. The serious violent offender declaration was removed, and as such our client is now eligible for parole after serving 3 and a half years in prison. This represents a dramatic difference to a young person’s life.

The appeal addresses the need for rehabilitation of youthful offenders. In many cases, including this, a young person is far less culpable for their actions than a mature adult might be in the same situation. Furthermore, with their whole lives ahead of them, avoiding recidivism through effective rehabilitation and appropriate sentencing is of utmost importance.