AOD Sentencing Reform in Victoria: A Chronically Relapsing Disorder?

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The relationship between illicit drug policies, the criminal law and sentencing law and practice has a long and complex history in Victoria, a history of changing theories as to the nature of substance use abuse and addiction, of oscillating and ambivalent responses to alcohol and other drugs-related crime ranging from ‘tough on crime’ and law enforcement approaches to harm minimisation and decriminalisation and from civil to criminal forms of intervention. Whatever the responses, there has been a disconnect between the legal framework and the way people behave in the community.

This presentation traces the history of sentencing reform in Victoria relating to alcoholic and drug-dependent persons from the 1870s to the present day and the connections, or disconnections, between illicit drug, criminal justice and sentencing policies.

It argues that the history of sentencing law reform in relation to AOD offenders is one of many changes, but limited progress, of some successes but also some chronic failures. It suggests that the lessons of the past need to be learned if a successful sentencing system is to evolve and identifies a number of principles and practices that should form the foundation of an effective, fair and just sentencing system for AOD-affected offenders.


Emeritus Professor Arie Freiberg, Monash University

Arie Freiberg AM is an Emeritus Professor at Monash University. He was Dean of the Faculty of Law at Monash University between 2004 and 2012. Before this, he was Dean of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Melbourne in 2003. He was appointed to the Foundation Chair of Criminology at the University of Melbourne in January 1991, where he served as Head of the Department of Criminology between January 1992 and June 2002.

His particular areas of expertise are sentencing, non-adversarial justice and regulation.

In July 2004, he was appointed inaugural Chair of the Victorian Sentencing Advisory Council and served until October 2022. Between 2013 and 2021, he was  Chair of the Tasmanian Sentencing Advisory Council.

He has authored over 180 publications in areas such as sentencing, the role of emotion in criminal justice and public policy, drug courts, problem-oriented courts, non-adversarial justice, regulatory theory and trauma-informed regulation.