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10.7.4 - Age and life without parole

In determining whether it is inappropriate pursuant to Sentencing Act 1991 s11(1) to fix a non-parole period for a person sentenced to life imprisonment, the offender’s age is relevant and important: Denyer [1995] 1 VR 186; Coulston [1997] 2 VR 446; Lowe [1997] 2 VR 465. The younger the offender the more severe the penalty of life imprisonment with no possibility of parole will be. In Coulston,the Court of Appeal said at 463:

[A] sentence of life imprisonment with no possibility of parole is a sentence of the utmost severity. It is a dreadful sentence, at all events for an offender who is not of an advanced age.

In Lowe [1997] 2 VR 465, a kidnapping and murder case, the Court said, at 486:

The younger the offender, the more severe a sentence of life imprisonment will in general be, for the obvious reason that in the ordinary course of events the length of the term of imprisonment to be served depends upon the age of the offender. Accordingly it must be and always has been recognised that in the determination of whether a sentence of life imprisonment is appropriate the offender’s age is a relevant and indeed important consideration. It has similarly been recognised that in the determination of whether it is inappropriate to fix a non-parole period for a person sentenced to life imprisonment the offender’s age is relevant and important: R v Denyer [1995] 1 VR 186 and R v Coulston [1997] 2 VR 446.

And the Court concluded, at 489-490:

It could lead to remarkably unjust results if, in considering whether a non-parole period should be fixed, a court could not have regard to the age of the offender, and in our opinion s11(1) does permit this regard to be had...

We therefore conclude that regard may be had to the offender’s age by a judge who is called upon to apply s11(1). We should add that we have no doubt that, contrary to Mr Grace’s submission, the age of the offender is relevant not only to the determination of whether he or she should be denied the possibility of parole but also to the determination of the length of the non-parole period where one is being set.

For further material on s11(1) and its interpretation in Lowe [1997] 2 VR 465, see .

Last updated: 1 April 2005

In This Section

10.7.4.1 - ‘Young persons’ may not be sentenced to indefinite sentences

See Also

10.7 - Age of the offender

10.7.1 - Child offenders

10.7.2 - ‘Young’ and ‘youthful’ offenders

10.7.3 - Mature offenders

10.7.5 - Age and Commonwealth death sentences

10.7.6 - Recent cases on the age of the offender