Qld set to overturn Barbaro & Zirilli v The Queen [2014]

Statue of justiceBarbaro & Zirilli is a 2014 High Court Decision which effectively brought to an end the practice of Prosecutors providing the Court with an appropriate sentencing range.  Until 2014 it was usual for the prosecution to provide the Court with assistance not only as to the facts of a sentence but also with a range that the Crown considered appropriate for the offending.

The case itself involved conspiring to traffic a commercial quantity of MDMA, trafficking a commercial quantity of MDMA and attempting to possess a commercial quantity of cocaine.

The accused men, Mr Barbaro and Mr Zirilli agreed to enter pleas of guilty following discussions between their lawyers and the prosecution.  During those discussions, the prosecution expressed its view as to the range of sentences that might be imposed on each applicant. The prosecution told the applicants’ lawyers that the “sentencing range”, in Mr Barbaro’s case, was a head sentence of 32 to 37 years with a non-parole period of 24 to 28 years and, in Mr Zirilli’s case, a head sentence of 21 to 25 years with a non-parole period of 16 to 19 years.

At the sentencing hearing, Justice King, advised that she would not receive from either party submissions about sentencing range.  The prosecution, in those circumstances did not make any submission about what range of sentences could be imposed.  Mr Barbaro was sentenced to life imprisonment with a non‑parole period of 30 years.  Mr Zirilli was sentenced to 26 years’ imprisonment with a non‑parole period of 18 years.

The High Court dismissed both appeals.  The Court held, by majority, that it is neither the role nor the duty of the prosecution to proffer some statement of the bounds within which a sentence may be imposed.  It is for the sentencing judge alone to decide what sentence will be imposed. As a consequence the practice of providing the Sentencing Court with assistance as to the sentencing range came to an end.

The Queensland Government has indicated that it will introduce legislation into Parliament that will reinstate the ability of a court to receive submissions from both the prosecutor and defence on what they considered was the appropriate sentence or range of sentence that should be imposed.

The proposed legislation will return proceedings to the situation that existed prior to the High Court decision in Barbaro & Zirilli v Queen [2014] and will improve consistency in sentencing, as well as assist in the efficient running of courtrooms.

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