4513.0 - Criminal Courts, Australia, 2009-10 Quality Declaration 
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/06/2011   
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Contents >> Sentence length >> HIGHER COURTS DEFENDANTS SENTENCED TO A CUSTODIAL ORDER

HIGHER COURTS DEFENDANTS SENTENCED TO A CUSTODIAL ORDER

Summary

In 2009-10, there were a total of 10,026 defendants sentenced to a custodial order in Australia’s Higher Courts. The majority of these defendants (53%) had a sentence imposed of less than 2 years and a further 34% had a sentence imposed of between 2 and 5 years. Less than 1% (61 defendants) were sentenced to a custodial order of 20 years or more. The median sentence length for all defendants was 24 months.

Almost three quarters (7,271) of the defendants sentenced to a custodial order were sentenced to custody in a correctional institution. This reflects the more serious criminal offences heard in the Higher Courts. A further 22% (2,227) were sentenced to a fully suspended sentence. A fully suspended sentence is a custodial order which provides that all of the sentence not be served, subject to the person being of good behaviour. The remaining 529 defendants were sentenced to custody in the community, a sentence that requires that the person have restricted liberty while living within the community.

Principal proven offence

Five offence types accounted for 79% of defendants sentenced to a custodial order: illicit drug offences (21%), acts intended to cause injury (19%), robbery and extortion (14%), sexual assault (13%) and unlawful entry with intent (12%).

The sentence lengths varied for these offence types: over half of the defendants with a principal proven offence of unlawful entry with intent (61%), acts intended to cause injury (58%), or illicit drug offences (53%) had a sentence of less than 2 years; while for robbery and extortion the majority of defendants had a sentence of 2 to 5 years (53%).


SENTENCE LENGTH, Selected principal proven offence



A high proportion of defendants with a principal proven offence of homicide and related offences had sentences of 5 years or more (59%) followed by those with sexual assault and related offences (22%).

The median sentence length was longest for homicide and related offences (72 months), followed by robbery, extortion and related offences (36 months) and sexual assault and related offences (30 months).

Principal sentence

A custodial order is an order requiring a person to have restricted liberty for a specified period of time, either through detainment in a correctional institution, or being subject to regular supervision within the community. These orders are further broken down into the following categories:

  • custody in a correctional institution (includes imprisonment with a determined term and periodic detention)
  • custody in the community (includes intensive corrections orders and home detention)
  • fully suspended sentences

In 2009-10, 7,271 defendants were sentenced to custody in a correctional institution. The majority of these defendants had a principal proven offence of illicit drug offences (20%), acts intended to cause injury (19%) or robbery and extortion (16%).

Defendants sentenced to custody in a correctional institution generally had the longest sentences, with a median sentence length of 32 months overall compared to a median of 24 months for defendants sentenced to custody in the community and 16 months for defendants with a fully suspended sentence.


TYPE OF SENTENCE, Mean and median sentence length



States and territories

Of the 10,026 defendants sentenced to a custodial order in Australia’s Higher Courts, over half (57%) were sentenced in Queensland (29% or 2,860) and New South Wales (28% or 2,825). These states were followed by Western Australia (16% or 1,571) and Victoria (15% or 1,521).

There was variation in the major offence types across the states and territories. The most prevalent principal proven offence was illicit drug offences in New South Wales (26%), Victoria (18%), South Australia (27%) and Western Australia (21%). In Queensland and the Northern Territory the most prevalent principal proven offence was acts intended to cause injury (28% and 33% respectively); and in the Australian Capital Territory it was unlawful entry with intent (25%).

In Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory the majority of defendants had a sentence length of less than 2 years. The proportions ranged from 69% in the Australian Capital Territory to 53% in South Australia.

Sentence lengths in New South Wales were generally longer with 34% of defendants being sentenced to a custodial order of less than two years and 46% being sentenced to 2-5 years. In the Northern Territory just over half (51%) were sentenced to a custodial order of 2-5 years.

The median sentence length was longest for defendants sentenced to a custodial order in New South Wales and the Northern Territory (both 36 months) and shortest in the Australian Capital Territory (17 months).


STATES AND TERRITORIES, Mean and median sentence length


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