Study of reactions to sex crime penalties

A TASMANIAN model for examining jury expectations for sentencing will be used to examine community reactions to the penalties handed down to sex offenders.

The study, chaired by University of Tasmania Professor Kate Warner, is based on a 2009 study that asked Tasmanian jurors to nominate an appropriate sentence for the person whose case they had just decided.

It will begin in March this year and focus on the opinions of jurors empanelled in child sex cases.

The study will also look at the jurors' opinions for parole for sex offenders, following the national discussion about parole sparked by the murder of Melbourne woman Jill Meagher by a convicted rapist who was on parole in 2012.

Professor Warner said the 2009 study, which was now being copied in Victoria, showed that informed public opinion, as opposed to opinion informed by just seeing the media highlights of the case, did not think courts were too lenient on offenders.

The Tasmanian study found that 52 per cent of jurors suggested a lighter sentence than was actually handed down by the judge, and 90 per cent agreed with the judge's sentence.

But Professor Warner said the focus on sex offences in the national study could turn out a different result.

"They are the offences that the public seem most concerned about," she said.

Professor Warner said that jurors involved in the Tasmanian study who had decided a child sex case were the most likely to have disagreed with the judge's sentence.

The study will begin in March.

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