Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research

The impact of COVID on the NSW Criminal Justice System

In response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Australian and NSW Governments implemented various measures to minimise personal contact and contain the spread of the virus. Social distancing and social isolation initiatives were rolled out throughout March 2020. The most stringent restrictions were in place throughout April, with some restrictions relating to isolation beginning to ease from mid-May 2020. 

The COVID-19 response also involved changes to the Criminal Justice System to minimise the risk of transmission. These measures resulted in a significant disruption to regular activities and were associated with large falls in various violent and property crimes in NSW. Offences sensitive to police enforcement activity, such as drug offences and breaches of AVOs and bail conditions, however remained mostly stable.


COVID Public Health Breaches

Commencing March 2020, the NSW Government issued public health orders under section 7 of the NSW Public Health Act 2010 to limit the spread of COVID-19. These orders have undergone several revisions and amendments since March 2020. The orders have included restrictions on travel, limits on social gatherings, social isolation requirements, the mandatory wearing of face coverings, and prohibiting intentional spitting and coughing on public officials and workers.  Police can issue a fine or court attendance notice for failure to comply with the orders. 

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COVID-19 pandemic and crime trends in NSW January 2015 to April 2020

Difference between forecast and observed incidents:

  • Robbery – down 42%
  • Non-domestic assault – down 39%
  • Sexual offences – down 32%
  • Break and enter-dwelling (down 29%) and break and enter - non-dwelling (down 25%)
  • Steal from motor vehicle (down 34%) and car theft (down 24%)
  • Shop lifting – down 55%


Monitoring changes in domestic violence January 2019 to April 2020

  • ​The number of domestic violence-related assaults recorded in April 2020 was 12% lower than in April 2019, a fall of 289 incidents
  • The number of Breach Apprehended Domestic Violence Order (ADVO) recorded in April 2020 was noticeably higher than the equivalent 2019 count
  • Trends in the volume of calls to the NSW Domestic Violence Line, a 24 hour victim assistance service, show no evidence of COVID related increase
  • There is no evidence of a COVID-related increase in urgent police callouts to respond to Priority 1 & 2 domestic violence incidents
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The impact of COVID-19 measures on the size of the NSW adult prison population January 2019 to June 2020

  • From 15 March 2020 to 10 May the NSW prison population fell sharply, declining by 1,508 people or 10.7%
  • Most of the decline occurred in the remand population (down 1,049 people or 70% of the total decline). The sentenced prisoner population fell by 559 people (30% of the decline)
  • The remand population fell due to both a decrease in remand receptions and an increase in remand discharges
  • The decline in sentenced prisoners occurred due to a drop in sentenced custody receptions associated with reduced numbers of court finalisations

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