Sentencing Trends & Issues No 46 — Common Offences in the NSW Local Court: 2015

The Commission has published a Sentencing Trends & Issues that reports on sentences imposed in the NSW Local Court in 2015. The paper presents general findings about offender characteristics and the use of penalties in the Local Court across all statutory principal offences. It identifies the most common statutory and regulatory offences dealt with by the Court in 2015 and reports on the sentences observed for those offences. Comparisons are made with a previous study undertaken by the Judicial Commission for offences dealt with in the Court in 2010.

The distribution of the 20 most common statutory principal offences in the court in 2015 was similar to 2010. Eighteen offences in the list in 2015 were also in the 2010 list. A notable change was the movement of possess prohibited drug from fourth ranking in 2010 to the most common offence in 2015. The next three ranked offences in 2015 (mid-range PCA, common assault and low-range PCA) were the first three ranked offences in 2010. The two new offences in the 2015 list were drive with presence of prescribed illicit drug and fraud, the former entering the list as the fifth ranked offence.

The sentencing patterns observed for the 20 most common statutory principal offences continued to show a high rate of non-custodial sentences, but changes were mixed with penalties for some offences observed to be generally more severe, others generally more lenient, than in 2010.

In contrast to previous similar studies, this paper also includes results of an analysis of all proven offences finalised in the Court in 2015 (ie both principal and secondary offences, including statutory, regulatory and common law offences). Such an analysis presents a more complete picture of the most common offences the court dealt with. The distribution of the 20 most common offences dealt with differed when all proven offences were considered. One regulatory offence and three new statutory offences appeared in the list. When all proven offences were considered, a general trend could be seen of increased rates of more severe penalties such as sentences of imprisonment (where available). Additionally, s 10A of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 was used more commonly when there were multiple offences but the offence was not the principal offence.