(1) Subject to this section, where a court ( the sentencing court ) sentences an offender to be imprisoned for life for the offence of murder, the court must fix under section 53(1):
(a) a standard non-parole period of 20 years; or
(b) if any of the circumstances in subsection (3) apply – a non-parole period of 25 years.
(2) The standard non-parole period of 20 years referred to in subsection (1)(a) represents the non-parole period for an offence in the middle of the range of objective seriousness for offences to which the standard non-parole period applies.
(3) The circumstances referred to in subsection (1)(b) are any of the following:
(a) the victim's occupation was police officer, emergency services worker, correctional services officer (as defined in section 16 of the Correctional Services Act ), judicial officer, health professional, teacher, community worker or other occupation involving the performance of a public function or the provision of a community service and the act or omission that caused the victim's death occurred while the victim was carrying out the duties of his or her occupation or for a reason otherwise connected with his or her occupation;
(b) the act or omission that caused the victim's death was part of a course of conduct by the offender that included conduct, either before or after the victim's death, that would have constituted a sexual offence against the victim;
(c) the victim was under 18 years of age at the time of the act or omission that caused the victim's death;
(d) if the offender is being sentenced for 2 or more convictions for unlawful homicide;
(e) if the offender is being sentenced for one conviction for murder and one or more other unlawful homicides are being taken into account;
(f) at the time the offender was convicted of the offence, the offender had one or more previous convictions for unlawful homicide.
(4) The sentencing court may fix a non-parole period that is longer than a non-parole period referred to in subsection (1)(a) or (b) if satisfied that, because of any objective or subjective factors affecting the relative seriousness of the offence, a longer non-parole period is warranted.
(5) The sentencing court may refuse to fix a non-parole period if satisfied the level of culpability in the commission of the offence is so extreme the community interest in retribution, punishment, protection and deterrence can only be met if the offender is imprisoned for the term of his or her natural life without the possibility of release on parole.
(6) The sentencing court may fix a non-parole period that is shorter than the standard non-parole period of 20 years referred to in subsection (1)(a) if satisfied there are exceptional circumstances that justify fixing a shorter non-parole period.
(7) For there to be exceptional circumstances sufficient to justify fixing a shorter non-parole period under subsection (6), the sentencing court must be satisfied of the following matters and must not have regard to any other matters:
(a) the offender is:
(i) otherwise a person of good character; and
(ii) unlikely to re-offend;
(b) the victim's conduct, or conduct and condition, substantially mitigate the conduct of the offender.
(8) In considering whether the offender is unlikely to re-offend, the matters the sentencing court may have regard to include the following:
(a) whether the offender has a significant record of previous convictions;
(b) any expressions of remorse by the offender;
(c) any other matters referred to in section 5(2) that are relevant.
(9) The sentencing court must give reasons for fixing, or refusing to fix, a non-parole period and must identify in those reasons each of the factors it took into account in making that decision.
(10) The failure of the sentencing court to comply with this section when fixing, or refusing to fix, a non-parole period does not invalidate the sentence imposed on the offender.
(11) This section applies only in relation to an offence committed:
(a) after the commencement of the Sentencing (Crime of Murder) and Parole Reform Act 2003 ; or
(b) before the commencement of that Act if, at that commencement, the offender has not been sentenced for the offence.
(12) In subsection (3):
"unlawful homicide" means the offence of murder or manslaughter.