Sentencing Spotlight on possession of dangerous drugs released

Media release

6 October 2017

Nine out of 10 offenders sentenced for possessing a dangerous drug in the last decade received a non-custodial sentence, with more than half getting a fine — a new report reveals.

The Sentencing Spotlight on possession of dangerous drugs has been released by the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council.

The report examines sentencing outcomes for possessing dangerous drug offences finalised in Queensland courts between 1 July 2005 and 30 June 2016.

Council member Dan Rogers said: “Sentencing offenders for possession of dangerous drugs is complicated by different legislation for adult and young offenders. There is also a wide range of penalty options available depending on the type and quantity of drug involved and whether or not the drug possession is for personal use or relates to a commercial purpose.”

The Sentencing Spotlight provides a summary of the different legislation and sentencing outcomes that apply, an analysis of offender characteristics and the types of sentences offenders receive.

Over the last 11 years, 151,186 offenders were sentenced by Queensland courts for possessing dangerous drugs. For 65.1% of these, possession of a dangerous drug was their most serious offence — with 1.1% of offenders being young offenders. The number of offenders per year with a drug possession offence as the most serious offence doubled over the period from 6809 (2005–06) to 13,630 (2015–16).

The overwhelming majority of offenders (97.1%) pleaded guilty to possession of a dangerous drug. Sentenced offender were mainly male (78.8%), aged 30.7 years and non-Indigenous (90.6%). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander offenders accounted for 9.4% of offenders.

Offenders received a wide range of penalties, although the majority (93.2%) received non-custodial outcomes, of which 56.4% received an average fine of $554.60.

Mr Rogers added: “While another drug-related charge was the common associated offence for all offenders who had possessing a dangerous drug as their MSO, of particular interest for the Council is the difference our analyses exposed in relation to the second most common associated offences across our target groups.

"For male, female and non-Indigenous offenders, the second most common associated offence was another dangerous drug charge. However for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander offenders, the second most common associated offence was resisting arrest.

“We are committed to understanding and addressing drivers of over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Queensland’s criminal justice system — this Sentencing Spotlight series assumes a key role in contributing to this work” said Mr Rogers.

The Sentencing Spotlight series also features murder, manslaughter and child exploitation materials.