Indigenous community participation in the sentencing of criminal offenders: circle sentencing
Recently the New South Wales Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee (‘AJAC’) released a discussion paper titled Circle Sentencing: Involving Aboriginal Communities in the Sentencing Process. The paper proposed that ‘circle sentencing’—a community-based sentence determination procedure which originated in Canadian Indigenous communities—be trialled in selected Aboriginal communities in New South Wales. Almost 10 years after the release of the final report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody the need for alternatives to the conventional processes of criminal justice administration in Indigenous communities is as great as ever. Therefore, practical initiatives such as the AJAC proposal for a circle sentencing trial deserve serious consideration. This article outlines some of the key features of circle sentencing as this form of community justice has operated in Canada since the early 1990s. A number of pre-conditions for the successful operation of circle sentencing are identified, including: • the importance of local ownership of the process and endorsement of its cultural appropriateness; • the need for clarity of rules of eligibility and procedure; and • the willingness of judges to share decision-making authority. Author's abstract.