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Sentencing of domestic violence offenders

 

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Release date: 9 August, 2010

The most common penalty imposed on domestic violence offenders is a bond. Offenders who injure their victims, who breach an apprehended violence order or who have a prior conviction for violence, however, stand a good chance of going to prison.

These are the main findings of the first-ever Australian study into the sentencing of domestic violence offenders.

To conduct the study, the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) analysed around 20,000 cases of domestic violence related offences dealt with by the NSW courts between January 2008 and June 2009.

The most common domestic violence-related charge was 'common assault' (the least serious form of assault). Those convicted of this offence most commonly received an unsupervised bond (29.6%). Only 7.2 per cent received a prison sentence.

In contrast, 17.6 per cent of domestic violence offenders convicted of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and 60.4 per cent of those convicted of recklessly causing grievous bodily harm received a prison sentence.

Those who breach a domestic AVO most commonly receive an unsupervised bond (21.4%) or a fine (17.1%) but 16.9 per cent receive a prison sentence.

A large percentage of the domestic violence related offences dealt with by the courts involve damaging property, or stalking/intimidation. The most common penalty for property damage is a fine. The most common penalty for stalking/intimidation is an unsupervised bond, although one in 10 of those convicted of stalking/intimidation received a prison sentence.

In relation to those convicted of domestic violence related assault, the odds of prison for those who had a prior conviction in the previous ten years for a violent offence were about 2.6 higher than for those who had no conviction in the past ten years for a violent offence. Having breached an apprehended violence order in the past two years increased the odds of imprisonment by a factor of 2.3.

Some offenders are almost certain to go to prison. A male convicted of causing grievous bodily harm who has a concurrent breach of an AVO, a breach of an AVO in the preceding two years, a conviction for a violent offence in the preceding 10 years and a prior prison sentence faces a 90 per cent chance of going to prison.

Average prison terms also vary according to the nature of the charge. The average term of imprisonment for a domestic violence offender convicted of common assault is 4.6 months.

By contrast, the average term of imprisonment for a domestic violence offender convicted of recklessly causing grievous bodily harm is 12.6 months.

Further enquiries: Dr Don Weatherburn. 0419-494-408