New Paths to Community Safety: Punishment Policy and the Courts

Free Public Lecture

New Paths to Community Safety: Punishment Policy and the Courts

Kathleen Fitzpatrick Theatre
Arts West


More information

T: 83442543

The 2019 John Barry Memorial Lecture in Criminology

It is 50 years since the publication of Sir John Barry’s lectures entitled 'The courts and criminal punishments'. Unlike anything ever written by a serving Australian judge, the lectures explore fundamental issues of penal philosophy and practice. In 2019, the lectures remain as pertinent as ever. They raise a series of challenging questions which Justice Maxwell will address – about the purposes of punishment, about the role of courts in sentencing and about the contribution of criminologists to penal policymaking.

The power to punish is the most potent of public powers, and its exercise merits the closest scrutiny. Key issues arise concerning the rule of law and the separation of powers. Parliament sets the sentencing parameters, by fixing maximum penalties, but the individual judicial officer must determine the appropriate sentence for the individual offender. The judge thus acts as moral arbiter on behalf of the community, but are the community’s expectations met? The judge must exercise an independent discretion but is the decision consistent with the legislative parameters? Individualised justice is required but how do we ensure that like cases are treated alike?

The answers lie in the appellate court doing more than just ensuring consistency in sentencing. The court gives expression to the intentions of legislation whilst also providing guidance to the lower courts. It supervises a unique space in which courts trace out paths to community safety by curating and bringing coherence to community expectations (both punitive and curative). Vital to maintaining this space is an active engagement between the courts and criminologists, whose critical evaluation of the penal system should inform both legislative and judicial decision-makers

About the John Barry Memorial Lecture
The Honourable Sir John Vincent William Barry, Judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria from 1947, and Foundation Chairman of The Board of Studies in Criminology at the University of Melbourne from 1951, was a distinguished graduate of this University. Sir John did much to stimulate the growth of the study of Criminology, not only at this University, but also throughout Australia and abroad. Each year, the John Barry Memorial Lecture seeks to inform and educate on topics of criminological significance, continuing Sir John’s commitment to criminological research.


  • Justice Christopher Maxwell
    Justice Christopher Maxwell, President of the Court of Appeal