Media Release: Suspended sentences and imprisonment 

Release date: Tuesday 23 September 2014, 10.30am

Full report - Suspended sentences and imprisonment (pdf 358Kb)

The reintroduction of suspended sentences of imprisonment has increased the NSW prison population rather than reducing it, according to a new report released today by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research.

Suspended sentences were introduced in NSW in April 2000. Between 2000 and 2013, the number of suspended sentences imposed by NSW adult courts rose by more than 180 per cent (from 1,849 to 5,224).

Under s.12 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act (1999), suspended sentences of imprisonment should only be imposed where a sentence of full-time imprisonment would normally be appropriate.

The Bureau examined trends in the monthly number of persons imprisoned or given a suspended sentence from January 2002 to December 2013 and found that, for every 10 additional offenders given a suspended sentence, an additional 3-4 offenders end up in prison.

The reason for this paradoxical result, according to the director of the Bureau, Dr Don Weatherburn, is that courts have been imposing suspended sentences on offenders who would previously have been given a non-custodial sanction, such as a community service order, rather than being sent to prison.

"The problem here is that, when an offender breaches the conditions of their suspended sentence, the sentencing court has little choice but to send the offender to prison."

"As a result, every time the number of persons given a suspended sentence increases, the number receiving a prison sentence increases with it."

Further enquiries: Dr Don Weatherburn 9231-9190 (please do not ring my mobile number)

Copies of the report: