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. Most significantly orders under the NSW Public Health Act 2010 closed indoor spaces and businesses for non-essential activities, prohibited people from leaving their place of residence without reasonable excuse and limited most outdoor gatherings to two persons.
The COVID-19 response also involved changes to the Criminal Justice System to minimise the risk of transmission.
COVID-19 pandemic and crime trends in NSW
- 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 in the wake of COVID-19 social isolation measures
- 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
The impact of COVID-19 measures on the size of the NSW adult prison population
- 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
COVID PUBLIC HEALTH BREACHES
COVID-19 related breaches of the Public Health Act 2010
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- Between 17 March 2020 and 30 June 2020 there were 1,558 persons proceeded against by NSW Police for a COVID related breach of the Public Health Act 2010.
- The vast majority (84%) of the breaches were issued in April, during the period of most stringent restrictions.
- Persons aged 18-29 received the highest number of breaches (739 persons or 47.4%), followed by persons aged 30-49 (541 persons or 34.7%)
- Males account for 77% of person proceeded against for a breach