Sentencing Spotlights

The Sentencing Spotlight series presents data on sentencing outcomes for a range of offences that have been finalised in Queensland Courts.

The spotlights summarise what sentences are being received by offenders for specific offences to help you understand the whole sentencing process, including details on what the offence is, offender characteristics, types of sentence and plea.

Sentencing Spotlight on…possession of dangerous drugs

Looking at sentencing outcomes between 1 July 2005 and 30 June 2016, the Sentencing Spotlight on…possession of dangerous drugs provides further insight into the following information:

  • A total of 151,186 offenders were sentenced for possession of a dangerous drug — 98,414 offenders as their most serious offence (MSO) and 52,772 offenders had another offence as their MSO.
  • The average age of offenders at sentencing was 30.7 years.
  • Most offenders were male (78.8%).
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander offenders made up 9.4% of total offenders.
  • The majority of offenders pleaded guilty (97.1%).
  • The majority of offenders received a non-custodial sentence (93.2%), of which 56.4% received a fine ($554.60 average).
  • The number of drug possession offences as MSO more than doubled from 2005–06 to 2015–16.

View the Sentencing Spotlight on….possession of dangerous drugs (PDF 672KB)

Sentencing Spotlight on…child exploitation material offences

Looking at sentencing outcomes between 1 July 2006 and 30 June 2016, the Sentencing Spotlight on…child exploitation material (CEM) offences provides further insight into the following information:

Court and diversion

  • 3035 offenders — responsible for 8198 CEM related offences — were dealt with by the criminal justice system over the 10-year period.
  • 1470 young offenders were dealt with by Queensland Police Service (QPS) via a caution or conference.
  • 1565 offenders were sentenced in Queensland courts (including 28 young offenders).

Diversion (dealt with by QPS)

  • Offences dealt with by QPS by way of caution or conference fell into three Queensland offence categories, possession (35.4%), distribution (34.4%) and production (29.7%). Only 0.5% were Commonwealth offences.
  • Young people were predominantly diverted by QPS for sexting-based offences.
  • Male offenders comprised 54.8% while female offenders comprised 45.2% of young people diverted.
  • 159 (10.8%) of young offenders diverted were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
  • The average age of young people dealt with by QPS diversion was 14.8 years.
  • Of all young people diverted by QPS, the vast majority were dealt with via a formal caution (92.9%), with only 7.1 per cent attending a youth justice conference.

Court

  • Offenders dealt with in court were mostly in relation to possession (49.5%), followed by offences under Commonwealth legislation (34.3%).
  • Male offenders comprised 98.5% of those sentenced in court.
  • 57 (3.6%) of offenders were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
  • The average age was 39.9 years.
  • Two-thirds of offenders in court were dealt with solely for CEM offences.
  • 354 offenders (22.6%) were sentenced for CEM offences in conjunction with other, more serious, offending the majority of which was contact offending.
  • Almost all defendants sentenced in court for CEM offences pleaded guilty (97.5%).
  • Of all offenders sentenced in court, the majority (78.1%) received a custodial penalty of some sort – the majority of whom received a suspended sentence (72.4%).
  • The median custodial duration received for a CEM most serious offence was 11.8 months.

View the Sentencing Spotlight on…child exploitation material offences (PDF 1MB)

Sentencing Spotlight on…murder

Looking at sentencing outcomes between 1 July 2005 and 30 June 2016, the Sentencing Spotlight on…murder provides further insight into the following information:

  • Murder is relatively infrequent — 195 offenders were sentenced for murder over the 11-year-period.
  • 185 offenders were adults, while 10 were aged under 17 at the time of the offence, of which 4 were dealt with as an adult and 6 were dealt with as a child.
  • All offenders dealt with as an adult received a sentence of life imprisonment. Of the six offenders dealt with as a child, two received a life sentence and four received sentences of 8, 10, 12 and 14 years.
  • The vast majority of offenders sentenced for murder were male (93.3%).
  • The average age of all offenders at the time of sentencing was 37 years: the average age of male offenders was 36.6 years and female offenders 42.8 years.
  • In the vast majority of cases (82.1%), the offender was known to the victim in some way.
  • The majority of offenders entered a plea of not guilty (72.3%).
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders were over-represented as offenders sentenced for murder—for both males and females. They represented 18.5% of offenders despite making up 3.8% of the population.
  • Just under 10% of offenders were charged with multiple murders.
  • Murder was the most serious offence for which offenders were sentenced, with the most common additional offence being either deprivation of liberty or false imprisonment.

View the Sentencing Spotlight on…murder (PDF 808KB)

Sentencing Spotlight on…manslaughter

Looking at sentencing outcomes between 1 July 2005 and 30 June 2016, the Sentencing Spotlight on…manslaughter provides further insight into the following information:

  • A total of 224 offenders were sentenced for manslaughter as their most serious offence.
  • 216 were adults and 8 were aged under 17 years at the time of the offence
  • All offenders sentenced for manslaughter received a custodial penalty. The vast majority (92.0%) received an immediate prison sentence, with the remaining offenders receiving either a partially suspended sentence (6.2%) or a wholly suspended sentence (1.8%)
  • Eight years was the most common period of imprisonment imposed
  • The majority of offenders sentenced for manslaughter were male (83.5%)
  • The average age of offenders at time of sentencing was 34.3 years; the average age of male offenders was 33.9 years and female offenders 36.7 years
  • In the majority of cases (70.5%) the offender was known to the victim in some way
  • The majority of offenders entered a plea of guilty (75.5%)
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders were over-represented as offenders sentenced for manslaughter—for both males and females. They represented 21.4% of offenders despite making up 3.8% of the population.

View the Sentencing Spotlight on…manslaughter (PDF 752KB)

Technical information

This series uses data from the administrative information collected by the Department of Justice and Attorney-General (DJAG) and provided to the Queensland Government Statistician’s Office, Queensland Treasury as part of the Courts database. Additional information is also sourced about cases from the sentencing remarks obtained from the Queensland Sentencing Information Service (QSIS).

The Sentencing Spotlight technical paper provides further information about limitations and counting rules for the data and definitions of commonly used terms.

View the Sentencing Series technical information (PDF 221KB)