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CJB230

Author Elizabeth Moore, Suzanne Poynton, Pierrette Mizzi and Una Doyle
Published August 2020
Report Type Crime and Justice Bulletin No. 230
Subject Sentencing; Evaluation reports
Keywords sentencing reforms, survey, judicial officers, legislative change, legislative evaluation

Summary

Aim

This study aims to assess whether, from the perspective of the judiciary, the NSW sentencing reforms, commencing in September 2018, are operating as intended and to identify any impediments to implementation.

Background

In September 2018 significant legislative changes were introduced to expand the community-based sentencing options available to offenders in NSW. A key driver for the changes was to increase opportunities for offenders to be supervised and to engage in rehabilitation programs.

To assess whether the sentencing reforms are operating as intended and identify any barriers to implementation, an online survey of 93 NSW judicial officers was undertaken In October 2019.

The survey aimed to assess:
• judicial officers’ perceptions of the sentencing reforms
• whether judicial officers feel there is more flexibility in sentencing decisions
• whether the process of obtaining a ‘Sentencing Assessment Report’ for a community-based order had improved
• whether any barriers exist to imposing the new community-based sentencing options.

Key findings

Overall, the majority of judicial officers agreed that the sentencing reforms are operating as intended.

Table 1 shows:
• 71% agreed the changes have increased the opportunity for offenders to serve supervised community-based orders.
• 57% agreed that the new community-based options provide more flexibility in sentencing decisions.
• 47% agreed that the changes have increased the opportunity for offenders to participate in rehabilitation programs.

In addition, 89% agreed that the ‘Sentencing Assessment Reports’ are provided on time and 65% agreed the reports provide sufficient information.

However, judicial officers identified a number of concerns including:
• the suspension of supervision for low-medium risk offenders
• the lack of information available to the court regarding ICO breaches
• ICO exclusions for certain offences
• lack of services particularly in rural locations to allow the full range of conditions to be used.

Conclusion

While the majority of judicial officers surveyed agree that the sentencing reforms are operating as intended, a number of practical issues remain that may affect the extent to which the expanded community-based sentencing options are used.