Examining Magistrate Perceptions and Use of Judicial Supervision

Magistrate Pauline Spencer1, Dr Benjamin Spivak2, Professor James Ogloff3, Dr Stephane Shepherd, Dr Diane Sivasubramaniam

1 Dandenong Magistrate’s Court, Dandenong, Victoria, 3175

2 Centre for Forensic Behavioural Sciences, Swinburne University of Technology and Forensicare, 505 Hoddle Street, Clifton Hill, 3068, bspivak@swin.edu.au

3 Centre for Forensic Behavioural Sciences, Swinburne University of Technology and Forensicare, 505 Hoddle Street, Clifton Hill, 3068, jogloff@swin.edu.au

Victorian sentencing law offers a number of mechanisms for magistrates to engage in therapeutic practices when dealing with offenders including deferral of sentences and judicial monitoring as part of a Community Corrections Order. Judicial monitoring allows for an accused/offender to appear before the same magistrate on multiple occasions to encourage and monitor engagement in rehabilitation programs. Supporters suggest that judicial supervision supports the aims of rehabilitation and treatment by motivating behavioural change, keeping offenders accountable, and allowing magistrates to tailor sentencing to an offender’s changing situation.

While Victoria permits judicial supervision, the relevant law allows for extensive magisterial discretion in determining when the mechanism should be used (i.e. what are the characteristics of accused/offenders that are best targeted for judicial supervision), how it should be employed in practice, what techniques should be used in supervision hearings, how often review hearings take place, and what specific goals supervision should be aiming to meet. Furthermore, these aspects of judicial supervision have largely been ignored by researchers meaning that there is a lack of information concerning how supervision is utilised and perceived by magistrates and whether magistrates face any barriers in employing judicial supervision in particular circumstances.

In 2016, the Centre for Forensic Behavioural Sciences was awarded a Victorian Legal Services Board grant to undertake a research project aimed at addressing the lack of information around magistrates’ use and perceptions of judicial supervision. The research seeks to examine who is being targeted by judicial supervision and why, what types of supervision are being used (e.g. pre-plea, post plea, post sentence), what, if any, barriers to judicial supervision are perceived by magistrates, and what techniques are being used by magistrates in court review hearings when undertaking supervision.

This paper will outline the background to the project, the methodologies utilised and the anticipated outcomes of the study.


Magistrate Pauline Spencer sits at Dandenong Magistrates’ Court, Victoria, Australia.  She was appointed to the bench in 2006.  Prior to her appointment she worked as a private lawyer and then with community legal centres as a lawyer and in a policy role.  During this time she worked with people with addictions and wrote and spoke about the need for the justice system to find better ways of dealing with people who were committing offences as a result of addiction.  Since being appointed Magistrate Spencer has developed her interest in therapeutic jurisprudence and in particular its application in busy mainstream court setting.

Dr Benjamin Spivak is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Forensic Behavioural Science, Swinburne University of Technology. His research interests relate to legal decision-making and risk assessment.

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