THE new head of Tasmania's Sentencing Advisory Council has described maximum sentences as a ``blunt tool''.
Professor Arie Freiberg, who founded the Victorian Sentencing Advisory Council in 2004, has been appointed chairman of Tasmania's council.
Yesterday, Professor Freiberg, who will continue as chairman of the Victorian council, said his first task would be to finalise a background paper on sex offender sentencing in order to begin community consultation next month.
The council is also set to release its final recommendations on punishment for assaults on emergency service workers.
Professor Freiberg, a former lawyer and dean of the faculty law at Monash University, said he was dedicated to ensuring the advisory council helped bridge the gap between the judiciary, community and Parliament.
He said community and legal attitudes often differed, with the public tending to demand harsher penalties.
``We have in Victoria recommended on a number of occasions increases in maximum penalties but we don't believe that's the answer to every problem in sentencing so we try to marry the views of the community - informed views of the community - together with empirical evidence and an understanding of what the courts need to do,'' Professor Freiberg said. ``Ultimately the question is what do you want to get out of your courts? Maximum penalties are often a very blunt tool to bring that about.''
He said the community needed to understand how the sentencing process worked.
``It's important to understand the difference between what the general feelings are that might be in relation to a particular offence, whether it be incest or rape or armed robbery, and the particular circumstances of the case, which is what the courts have to face on a day-to-day basis,'' he said.
Attorney-General Brian Wightman said Professor Freiberg was acknowledged as Australia's leading expert in the sentencing field.
Mr Wightman said sentencing was often a controversial issue.
``It's a very topical discussion often had by people that at times don't have an interest in the law but sentencing brings out those conversations,'' Mr Wightman said.
Criminologist Professor Rob White, of Hobart, and Ulverstone nurse Susan Robertson were also appointed to the 10-member council.