Reducing Indigenous Contact with the Court System

                 
Click here for the full report (pdf, 417Kb)

Release date: 2 December 2010

The best way to reduce Indigenous over-representation in the court system is to reduce the rate of Indigenous recidivism, according to new research released today by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research.

In 2009, Indigenous Australians constituted less than 2 per cent of the NSW population but accounted for 13 per cent of all persons charged with a criminal offence.

The Bureau estimates that more than 80 per cent of Indigenous defendants currently appearing in court will at some stage return, most within less than two years.

A 10 per cent reduction in the return rate would reduce the number of Indigenous court appearances by 2,558 per annum or approximately 32 per cent.

A 20 per cent reduction in the rate of return would virtually halve the number of Indigenous people turning up in court, reducing the ratio of Indigenous to non-Indigenous court appearances from 1 in every 9.6 cases to 1 in every 18.6 cases.

According to the Director of the Bureau, Dr Don Weatherburn, the best way to reduce the rate of Indigenous re-offending is through effective rehabilitation programs.

"Programs that combine intensive supervision with treatment have been found to produce an average 16 per cent reduction in reoffending."

"Given the strong influence that drug and alcohol abuse have on the risk of Indigenous arrest, it would also seem prudent to increase Indigenous access to drug and alcohol treatment."

The Bureau report notes, however, that nearly a quarter of all Indigenous appearances in the NSW Local Court are for road traffic and motor vehicle regulatory offences.

Many of these offences are committed by people who have been caught driving a motor vehicle after having had their driving license suspended for non-payment of a fine.

According to the Bureau, the Work and Development Order scheme recently introduced by the Government to help deal with the problem of fine default has the potential to reduce the number of Indigenous people returning to court, but only if sufficient numbers of Indigenous defendants can be placed on these orders.

It is not clear at this stage how many Indigenous offenders have been placed on a Work and Development Order.

Further enquiries: Dr Don Weatherburn 9231-9190, 0419-494-408