The Use of Suspended Sentences in Australia: Unsheathing the Sword of Damocles

  • Bartels L
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Wholly suspended sentences are a controversial sentencing option currently available in all Australian jurisdictions. This article examines the interpretation of the two-step process for imposing a suspended sentence as set out by the High Court in Dinsdale and points to important differences in the approach to exercising the discretion to suspend. In addition, the varying severity of the “bite” of the sentence through the imposition of conditions or combination with other sentencing options is discussed. The significance of a suspended sentence rests, in large part, on the threat of imposition in the event of breach. The effect of divergence in relation to breach provisions is therefore also reviewed. Statistical information on the use of suspended sentences in the higher courts is presented and the need for a more consistent approach to the use of this sentencing option identified




Bartels, L. (2007). The Use of Suspended Sentences in Australia: Unsheathing the Sword of Damocles. Criminal Law Journal, 31, 113–132.

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