ON 12 OCTOBER 1998, the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal delivered R v Jurisic Matter No 60131/98  NSWSC 423 (12 October 1998).
The court delivered a Guideline Judgment for NSW courts to follow when sentencing offenders for dangerous driving (occasioning death and grievous bodily harm). The judgment was the first of its kind in NSW, made in response to concerns about the consistency and adequacy of sentences for dangerous driving since the introduction of s52A of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) in 1994.
The Court of Criminal Appeal promulgated the following guidelines:
“1 A non-custodial sentence for an offence against s52A should be exceptional and almost invariably confined to cases involving momentary inattention or misjudgment.
2 With a plea of guilty, wherever there is present to a material degree any aggravating factor involving the conduct of the offender, a custodial sentence (minimum plus additional or fixed term) of less than three years (in the case of dangerous driving causing death) and less than two years (in the case of dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm) should be exceptional.
The period of three or two years, once the threshold of abandoning responsibility has been reached, is a starting point. The presence of additional aggravating factors, or their increased intensity, will determine the actual sentence.”
Spigelman CJ at CL at 228 quoted the following passage from Hunt CJ at CL in R v Musumeci (unrep, 30/10/97, NSWCCA):
“This court has held that a number of considerations which had to be taken into account when sentencing for culpable driving must also be taken into account when sentencing for this new offence of dangerous driving:
- 1. The legislature has always placed a premium upon human life, and the taking of a human life by driving a motor vehicle dangerously is to be regarded as a crime of some seriousness.
- 2. The real substance of the offence is not just the dangerous driving; it is the dangerous driving in association with the taking of a human life.
- 3. Such is the need for public deterrence in this type of case, the youth of any offender is given less weight as a subjective matter than in other types of cases.
- 4. The courts must tread warily in showing leniency for good character in such cases.
- 5. So far as youthful offenders of good character who are guilty of dangerous driving, therefore, the sentence must be seen to have a reasonable proportionality to the objective circumstances of the crime, and persuasive subjective circumstances must not lead to inadequate weight being given to those objective circumstances.
- 6. Periodic detention has a strong element of leniency built into it and, as presently administered, it is usually no more punitive than a community service order.
- 7. The statement made by this court in relation to the previous offence of culpable driving — that it cannot be said that a full-time custodial sentence is required in every case — continues to apply in relation to the new offence of dangerous driving. As that offence is committed even though the offender has had no more than a momentary or casual lapse of attention, there must always be room for a non-custodial sentence (although that does not mean that a non-custodial sentence is ordinarily appropriate in such a case), but the case in which a sentence other than one involving full-time custody is appropriate must be rarer for this new offence.”
The guideline has been reformulated in R v Whyte and other subsequent decisions.
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