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Are offenders convicted of domestic assault treated more leniently than offenders convicted of non-domestic assault?

Full report: Prison penalties for serious domestic and non-domestic assault, pdf 494Kb

Embargo 10.00AM Friday 4 December 2015

There is no evidence that courts treat people who commit domestic assaults more leniently than those who commit non-domestic assaults, a new study by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research has found.

In fact in some cases, those who commit domestic assaults are treated more harshly than those who commit non-domestic assaults.

Indigenous offenders found guilty of serious domestic violence related assault, for example, are more likely to be sentenced to prison than Indigenous offenders who commit serious non-domestic assaults.

These findings contradict earlier research suggesting that courts treat offenders convicted of domestic violence offences more leniently than they treat offenders convicted of non-domestic violence offences.

The Bureau study improves on past research by precisely matching offenders convicted of domestic and non-domestic assault in terms of the maximum penalty applicable to each case of assault. 

Commenting on the findings the Director of the Bureau, Dr Don Weatherburn said they provided reassuring evidence that courts are not treating domestic assaults more leniently than non-domestic assault.

"It is not clear, why Indigenous offenders who commit domestic assault are more likely to receive a prison sentence than Indigenous offenders who commit a non-domestic assault.

It may be that cases of Indigenous domestic violence are more serious on average than cases of Indigenous violence that is not domestic.

It is also possible that courts are responding to the very high rates of domestic violence in many Indigenous communities."

Further enquiries: Dr Don Weatherburn (8346 1100)

Copies of the report: www.bocsar.nsw.gov.au