Sentencing in NSW: A cross-jurisdictional comparison of full-time imprisonment
Research Monograph 39 (March 2015)
This study compares sentencing levels in NSW with those in other jurisdictions in Australia (particularly Victoria and Queensland) and overseas. It focuses on five specific offence categories that permitted robust comparison: sexual assault; child sexual assault; dangerous/culpable driving causing death; robbery; and break and enter/burglary. To further refine the comparison process, this study focuses primarily on the penalty option of full-time imprisonment.
The findings in this study show that sentences for a range of serious offences in NSW are among the most severe across the eastern seaboard states of Australia. Despite some small differences in statutory maximum penalties (and putting to one side partially suspended sentences), NSW had:
- higher full-time imprisonment rates than Queensland and Victoria for all five offence categories examined
- longer median head sentences than both Queensland and Victoria for the offences of child sexual assault, robbery, and break, enter/burglary.
The sentencing patterns presented in this study closely resemble those reported by the Judicial Commission in 2007. That study concluded that calls by the media for more severe sentences in NSW, at least comparatively speaking, were “pushing an open door”. This study confirms that observation.