Circle Sentencing Evaluation                


Click here for the full report (pdf, 311Kb)

Release Date: Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Circle sentencing does not reduce the risk of re-offending by Aboriginal offenders, a new report by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research has found.

Circle sentencing is an alternative method of sentencing Aboriginal offenders that involves the offender's community in the sentencing process.

The Bureau study examined three issues:

  • Whether circle sentencing reduces the frequency of offending
  • Whether circle sentencing increases the time between offences
  • Whether circle sentencing reduces the seriousness of any further offending

Circle sentencing participants were found to offend less frequently in the 15 months following their circle sentence than in the 15 months prior to the circle sentence. However the same was found to be true of a matched control group of Aboriginal offenders dealt with in a normal court proceeding.

After adjustment for various factors (e.g. offence, prior record, number of concurrent offences), no difference in time to the next offence was found between Aboriginal offenders who were circle sentence and a control group who were not circle sentenced.

Finally, no difference was found between circle sentence participants and a control group of Aboriginal offenders in the proportion whose next offence was less serious than their index offence (viz the one that led to the circle sentence or previous conviction).

Commenting on the findings, the Director of the Bureau, Dr Don Weatherburn, said Circle Sentencing should be strengthened rather than abandoned.

"Giving Aboriginal Elders direct involvement in the sentencing of Aboriginal offenders encourages offenders to critically reflect upon their behaviour".

"Personal reflection on its own, however, is not enough to reduce the risk of re-offending. Offenders also need to be given opportunities to address the factors that get them involved in crime, particularly drug and alcohol abuse".

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