A false HOPE? Swift, certain and fair approaches to sentencing in the Australian context

Mr Donald Ritchie1, Ms Ansuha Kenny, Mr Paul McGorrery
1Sentencing Advisory Council, Melbourne, Australia

In late 2017, the Victorian Sentencing Advisory Council presented its conclusions on the evidence for, and scope to introduce, ‘swift, certain and fair’ (SCF) approaches to sentencing family violence offender in Victoria. The report summarised the uncertain evidence base, highlighted the challenges for introducing SCF approaches in the Australian context, and described why they were inappropriate for family violence offenders.

Calls for ‘swift certain and fair’ or HOPE-like responses nevertheless persist, with a recent Victorian Parliamentary inquiry suggesting they may be appropriate in a youth justice context.

This presentation will review the Council’s findings and explore possible reasons why ‘HOPE’ and ‘SCF’ approaches remain popular despite the limited evidence for their efficacy. It also highlights the potential risks when seeking to replicate foreign sentencing approaches in the Australian context.


Donald Ritchie is the manager of legal policy and community engagement at the Sentencing Advisory Council. He has authored or co-authored over 18 publications for the Council, including references from the Attorney-General on sentencing guidance, swift, certain and fair responses to family violence offenders, and, most recently, a sentencing guidelines council for Victoria. He has also authored criminological papers examining the evidence of the effect of imprisonment on deterrence and incapacitation.


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