Sentencing for homicide and related offences

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Release date: 4 April 2012

The average aggregate prison term for a person convicted of murder in NSW (who does not receive a life sentence) 1 is just over 25 years (302 months). The average minimum term is 20 years (240 months).

This is one of the key findings to emerge from the Bureau's latest sentencing snapshot; a series of reports which describe current sentencing practice for various offences.

For this report the Bureau analysed all 253 males and 48 females who were convicted of a homicide or related offence in either 2009 or 2010.

The analysis revealed considerable variation across homicide offences in the likelihood of prison and the length of the prison term.

As with those convicted of murder, all those convicted of attempted murder received a prison sentence, as did nearly (96.2%) all those convicted of manslaughter.

However compared with an average aggregate prison sentence of 25 years for murder, the average aggregate sentence for attempted murder was 9.75 years (with an average minimum of 6.6 years), while the average aggregate sentence for manslaughter was seven years (with an average minimum of 4.5 years).

About 22 per cent of the offenders convicted of driving causing death received some form of bond, whilst just over a third (36.4%) received a prison sentence. The imprisonment rate for this offence was much lower than for other forms of homicide.

The average aggregate sentence for drive causing death was also lower than for other kinds of homicide, being just over 3.7 years (44 months), with a minimum term of a little over two years (25 months).

The average age of an adult offender convicted of homicide in NSW during the years 2009 to 2010 was 35 years. Of these, 84.1 per cent were male, and 59.5 per cent had no prior convictions in the last five years.

Commenting on the findings, the Director of the Bureau, Dr Don Weatherburn, said that the average minimum term of 20 years for murder is a far cry from the average of 16 years in custody served by life sentence prisoners in NSW between 1970 and 1974.

"If you get a life sentence in NSW these days, you never get out of prison."

Further enquiries: Dr Don Weatherburn 9231-9190

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1 In 2009, four people received life sentences for murder. None received a life sentence for murder in 2010.