ACT's top judge says courts need to better explain sentences to stop public outrage over "lenient" sentences.
Addressing a ceremony for the opening of the legal year at the ACT Supreme Court, Chief Justice Helen Murrell said the courts also had to give victims a greater voice in the court process.
Chief Justice Murrell said despite anger and outrage expressed through the press about sentencing, studies showed average members of the public given the same information as a sentencing judge tended to impose a lesser sentence.
She said these views were often based on anger and the associated desire to exact revenge.
"While the emotion of anger has been allocated no legitimate place in our criminal justice system, nor has it been neutralised," she said.
"The expression of anger and outrage is commonly expressed by the press, purportedly to speak on behalf of victims of crime and the public generally.
"Generally it is anger about the leniency of prison sentences.
"Within the past week a federal minister has criticised the soft sentences imposed by some judges and called for the appointment of tougher judges."
Chief Justice Murrell said to put an end to these debates, the public must be better informed about judges' sentences and victims must be given a greater voice in the judicial process.
She said an "informed" public would be less likely to think sentences were too lenient and be more equipped to debate sentencing principals in a constructive and critical way.
"As a profession we must foster greater understanding of the sentencing process," Chief Justice Murrell said.
"The Supreme Court is looking at ways to better inform the community about what's involved in sentencing. "
She said the court must implement ways to deal with victim disenfranchisement and allow victims, if necessary, to express their anger, which may not result in any longer sentences.
"Meaningful inclusion is more important than outcome," Chief Justice Murrell said.
Meanwhile, ACT Australian of the Year Dion Devow told the opening more must be done to address disproportionate levels of Indigenous incarceration.
"It is worth acknowledging that one of our society's biggest failures is our inability to meaningfully address the national crisis that is the over representation of Indigenous people in custody," he said.
"I note that the ACT alone is yet to see its first Indigenous judicial officer."