Sentencing Trends & Issues No 48 — Sentencing for domestic violence in the Local Court

Mark Zaki, Managing Lawyer
Brandi Baylock, Research Officer (Statistics)
Patrizia Poletti, Principal Research Officer (Statistics)

Pierrette Mizzi, Director, Research and Sentencing
Anne Murphy, Senior Editor (Legal)

Domestic violence is a serious, prevalent and persistent issue in NSW, denying victims their right to live free from violence, and the opportunity and freedom to reach their full potential. A major focus for the Commission in the past year has been producing this important Sentencing Trends & Issues publication on domestic violence aimed at informing judicial officers, legal practitioners and the community about developments in sentencing law, and providing a picture of sentencing for such offences in the Local Court and on appeal to the District Court.

Since 2016, legislative and policy initiatives continue to adapt and expand the measures available for the protection of victims of domestic violence and to deter domestic violence offending. This Trends considers those changes impacting on offences, on sentencing for these offences and on the rehabilitation of offenders. It also examines sentencing patterns at first instance in the Local Court and on appeal to the District Court. Section 4A of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1986 (CSP Act), which commenced on 24 September 2018, provides that a court must sentence a person found guilty of a domestic violence offence to either full-time imprisonment or a supervised order unless another sentence is more appropriate. The sentencing patterns for selected offences indicate high levels of sentences of full-time imprisonment and supervised orders, which suggests that Local Court sentences reflect the requirements of the CSP Act and, in particular, s 4A.

The Trends also considers other aspects of the sentences imposed including the conditions attached to community-based orders such as the requirement to participate in rehabilitation, receive treatment and abstain from alcohol and/or drugs. These conditions were not uncommon for those domestic violence offenders whose primary penalty was a community-based order. Patterns observed in relation to a domestic violence offender’s history of offending demonstrate the need for programs and processes that will actively promote an offender’s prospects of rehabilitation.