The Victims of Crime Commissioner acknowledges that sentencing is a complex task and that there are many factors that impact on a sentencing outcome. However, the sentencing task should not be made more complex by a lack of robust checks and balances for the submission of character references.

The Victims of Crime Commissioner urges the Victorian Government to establish a more robust system for the tendering of character references during sentencing.

While the Victims of Crime Commissioner acknowledges well established sentencing principles, including consideration of an offender’s previous character, it is also vital robust processes are in place to ensure character references are not submitted to the court in bad faith.  

Character references should be subject to the same stringent requirements as victim impact statements, which are statutory declarations.

In addition, there should be an onus on both the prosecution and the court to scrutinise the legitimacy of character references by ensuring basic checks have been undertaken to guarantee references are current and relevant. It should always be documented that referees are aware of the statement’s use in sentencing for that specific crime.

Victims of crime need more assurance that character references used during sentencing are legitimate.