Parole and appeals

An overview of the different kinds of parole and the appeals process.

What does parole mean?

Sentences of imprisonment are usually split into a non-parole period and the balance of the term. 

  • If an inmate is released from prison before the expiry of the balance of the term, they will be 'released to parole'.
  • The main purpose for having a period of parole is to allow inmates to be supervised in the community for a period after they are released from prison. 
  • Offenders need to comply with strict conditions while they are on parole and a failure to do so may mean their parole is revoked.
  • The State Parole Authority decides whether inmates should be released to parole.

Non-parole periods

This is the minimum amount of time that an offender will be kept imprisoned before being eligible to be released on parole.

  • The judge must fix a non-parole period that is at least three-quarters of the term of the sentence. This rule applies unless there are 'special circumstances' for setting a non-parole period that is less than three-quarters of the term of the sentence.
  • If an offender is sentenced to imprisonment for less than three years, release after the expiration of the non-parole period is automatic. 
  • If the offender is given a sentence of longer than three years, then his or her release date will depend on a decision being made by the State Parole Authority.

Standard non-parole periods

Certain specified serious offences have standard non-parole periods set in legislation. 

  • This is what governments are usually referring to when they talk about 'minimum sentences'. 
  • The standard non-parole period is regarded as a reference point for the judge and aggravating and mitigating circumstances may be taken into account when determining the sentence.

Appeals against convictions

An appeal against conviction means that the offender, known as the appellant in the appeal case, is arguing that he or she did not commit the offence for which he/she was found guilty.

Sentence appeals

The Director of Public Prosecutions can appeal against a sentence on the grounds that it is inadequate or too lenient.

An offender can also appeal on the grounds that the sentence imposed was too severe.

An appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeal from a sentence imposed in the District Court or the Supreme Court will only be successful if the sentencing judge is found to have committed a legal error, including imposing a sentence that was manifestly lenient or excessive.