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

CCS2020Q4

Author NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research
Published May 2021
Report Type NSW Criminal Courts Statistics
Subject Court statistics
Keywords Statistics, Criminal Courts

Summary

Abstract

Every six months BOCSAR releases updated Criminal Court statistics. The latest file shows the characteristics of NSW Criminal Court finalisations over five years to December 2020, across a large range of variables including: court outcomes, bail/remand status, offence demographics, sentencing patterns, court delay and District Court appeals.

Finalised court appearances
- The number of criminal court appearances finalised in 2020 fell by 8.5% compared with 2019.
- Finalisations fell in all jurisdictions. Local Court finalisations fell 8.1% or 10,360 matters, District Court finalisations fell 20.9% (down 989), Supreme Court finalisations fell 15.7% (down 16) and Children’s Court finalisations fell 6.0% (down 360).
- The offence type with the largest decline in the Local Court was Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences, down 17.3% from 39,807 in 2019 to 32,922 in 2020. This reduction is partly due to reforms implemented in May 2019, which moved first-time low-level drink driving and drug-presence offences from court to an Infringement Notice process.
- COVID-19 measures introduced in the Local Court included postponement of defended hearings, sentencing matters likely to result in a custodial penalty and first listing of summary matters involving no bail considerations.
- COVID related changes in the higher courts included suspension of new jury trials, and specifically in the District Court, of new judge alone trials, sentencing hearings, arraignments and readiness hearings for defendants awaiting their court appearance in the community.


Sentencing
- The proportion of offenders sentenced to imprisonment increased slightly between 2019 and 2020 from 9.7% to 10.0%. At the same time the number of custodial sentences was low due to the overall decline in the number of finalisations. In 2020:
• In the District Court, 70.8% of proven offenders were sentenced to imprisonment (up from 65.3% in 2019).
• In the Local Court, 8.6% of proven offenders were sentenced to imprisonment (up from 8.1% in 2019).
- The imprisonment rate has been affected by various reforms increasing the severity of matters finalised in both the District Court and the Local Court. For instance certain less complex drug offences are now heard in the Local Court rather than the District Court resulting in a more serious case mix in both jurisdictions. In addition, the Local Court has also experienced the removal of less complex traffic matters which are now dealt with by infringement notice.


Court delay
- Median time to finalise defended criminal matters in the Local Court increased in 2020, up from 202 days in 2019 to 247 days. The COVID-related postponement of Local Court matters has contributed to the increase in time to justice in that jurisdiction.
- Median time from committal to outcome for trials finalised in the District Court in 2020 was up by 4.7% to 378 days; by contrast the median time from committal to outcome for defendants finalised by sentence fell by 20.1% to 163 days.