Criminal Sentencing in Australia

Symbol of law and justice with Australia Flag. Close up.
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In recent decades, many countries, including England, New Zealand, and the United States, have changed how they approach criminal sentencing. Each country gives detailed guidance to judges about what type of sentence to impose in each case. Here in Australia, however, sentencing has remained largely the same: A judge selects a sentence from within a wide range set by Parliament. Multiple efforts to change sentencing in Australia have met with resistance from the High Court, which has insisted that punishment should be the result of a judge’s “instinctive synthesis”—a phrase that reveals little about the decision.

Join Fulbright Scholar Professor Carissa Hessick for a public lecture that will discuss how sentencing in Australia compares to other countries and the relative merits and demerits of the different systems. After the lecture, Professor Hessick will be joined by ACT Supreme Court Justice Belinda Baker for a discussion about how Australian judges actually make the “instinctive synthesis” sentencing decision.

Carissa Byrne Hessick is the Ransdell Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina, and she is currently serving as the Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at ANU. 

Belinda Baker was sworn in as a Justice of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory in 2022.  Prior to her appointment, Justice Baker worked as Counsel Assisting the New South Wales Solicitor General and Crown Advocate, as a Senior Solicitor and Solicitor Advocate in the New South Wales Crown Solicitor’s Office, and as a barrister in private practice.


  • This event will start with a short reception at 5.45 pm in the Foyer of the RSSS building. The Lecture will start at 6.30 pm.
  • Registration is required for this event. 
  • This event is available only for in-person attendance. 
  • The event will be catered with vegan and vegetarian food with some GF options. 
  • By registering for this event, you are accepting our privacy policy.

Date & time

Tue 21 May 2024, 5.45–8pm


RSSS Auditorium (Room 1.28) 146 Ellery Crescent Acton ACT 2601


Meredith Rossner


Updated:  9 May 2024/Responsible Officer:  RSSS Director/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications