Measuring public attitudes to sentencing: A focus group approach to assessing public responses toward sentencing for child homicide by Queensland criminal courts.

Ms Marni Manning1, Ms Laura Hidderley1
1Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council, Brisbane, Australia

Laura Hidderley – Laura has designed and worked on major quantitative research projects in a variety of government departments. At the Australian Taxation Office, she worked on two surveys simultaneously which involved liaising with stakeholders, sample management, data analysis and report writing. Previously, Laura worked on the Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children (Footprints in Time), where she managed survey development and data analysis. Laura is a key manager of data on behalf of the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council and is well-versed in the obligations associated with the effective and ethical management of sensitive information. Laura has bachelor degrees in Criminology and Criminal Justice and in Behavioural Science and an honours degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice.

In October 2017, The Honourable Yvette D’Ath MP, Attorney-General and Minister for Justice and Leader of the House requested the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council (the Council) to review ‘the penalties imposed on sentence for criminal offences arising from the death of a child’. The Government recognised community concern about sentences arising from offences involving the death of a child. The broader objectives of the Council’s work are to provide advice to the Attorney-General about:

  • Current penalties imposed on sentence for offence arising from the death of a child and current sentencing practices;
  • Whether the penalties imposed adequately reflect the particular vulnerabilities of these victims;
  • Whether current sentencing considerations are adequate for the purpose of sentencing this cohort of offenders, and identify if specific additional legislative guidance is required;
  • Ways to enhance knowledge and understanding of the community in relation to penalties imposed on sentence for criminal offences arising from the death of a child; and
  • Any legislative or other changes required to ensure the importation of appropriate sentences for criminal offences arising from the death of a child.

While much of the Council’s work was able to be addressed using administrative data, assessing community perceptions about appropriateness and adequacy as well as mechanisms for enhancing community knowledge about sentencing for these offences required a different approach. The Council adopted focus groups for assessing community attitudes. While not representative, this approach provided significant insights into public perceptions, and provided community input into this important public policy issue.


Biography:

Marni Manning – Marni’s career began in the Queensland Police Service where she was awarded the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy scholarship to research internet-based crime. She has worked at the Department of the Premier and Cabinet and Griffith University, and is currently employed by the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council. Marni also worked in criminal justice in the North Pacific and The Hague. She holds a Bachelor of International Business Relations, Graduate Certificate in Public Sector Leadership and Masters in Criminology and Criminal Justice. She is finalising the Fitzgerald PhD in police investigations.

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