Department of Justice is now the Department of Communities and Justice.  Find out more >

BB96

Author Clare Ringland and Lucy Snowball
Published August 2014
Report Type Bureau Brief No. 96
Subject Court processes and delay
Keywords court processes, plea, NSW District Court

Download this publication

Summary

Aim

To examine factors associated with early, late, and not guilty pleas in the District Court of NSW.

Method

Data relating to NSW District Court matters between 2011 and 2013 were extracted from the Re-offending Database. Logistic regression was used to examine the association between demographic details, the number and type of offences, and previous experience with the criminal justice system, and whether a plea of not guilty or guilty was entered, and whether guilty pleas were entered 'early' or 'late'.

Results

Overall, 55 per cent of defendants entered an early guilty plea, 28 per cent a late guilty plea and 17 per cent pleaded not guilty. A range of factors were associated with a defendant’s plea. For example, with increasing age, defendants were more likely to plead not guilty, and those who did plead guilty were more likely to plead guilty late rather than early. In terms of offence type/s, defendants charged with aggravated sexual assault and serious assault resulting in injury were more likely to plead not guilty, and those who did plead guilty were more likely to plead guilty late rather than early. Defendants charged with robbery, break and enter, and illicit drug offences were more likely to plead guilty, and were more likely to plead guilty early. With increased time between the alleged offence and the committal date, defendants were more likely to plead not guilty and when a guilty plea was entered it was more likely to be entered late than early. While defendants with a prior conviction were more likely than those without a prior conviction to plead guilty than not guilty, they were more likely to enter a guilty plea late. Similarly, compared to those with no concurrent offences, those charged with more than one offence were more likely to plead guilty, and more likely to plead guilty late than early.

Conclusion

Having a prior conviction and being charged with more than one offence were factors associated with an increased likelihood of a late guilty plea and a decreased likelihood of a not guilty plea. Targeting cases with these characteristics may help to increase the rate of early guilty pleas.

Download this publication