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BB63

Author Lucy Snowball
Published June 2011
Report Type Bureau Brief No. 63
Subject Prisons and prisoners; Sentencing
Keywords suspended sentence, full-time imprisonment, alternatives to custody

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Summary

Aim

To determine whether the profile of those receiving suspended sentences (of any length) changed over the 10-year period from 2000 to 2009 and whether those receiving suspended sentences have different characteristics from those receiving a full-time custodial sentence of the same length (in this case six months).

Method

The first question was answered by analysing the distribution of certain characteristics of interest over the 10-year period from 2000 to 2009 amongst offenders who had been given a suspended sentence. The second question was examined by looking at the bivariate relationship between sentence type and offender characteristics and then building a logistic regression model comparing the characteristics of offenders receiving a suspended sentence to those receiving a full-time custodial sentence.

Results

Over the period 2000 to 2009, there has been a reduction in the proportion of suspended sentences imposed on property offenders and an increase in the proportion of suspended sentences imposed on persons convicted of driving and traffic and ‘other’ offences. Offenders are more likely to receive a suspended sentence (than a full-time custodial sentence of six months or less) if they are female, older than 35 years of age, have been convicted of an offence that does not involve serious violence, theft or breaching an order, do not have concurrent convictions, do not have prior convictions and are not legally represented.

Conclusion

Courts do not appear to reserve suspended sentences for offenders who would otherwise have gone to prison.

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