Courts are treating DV cases more seriously

Media statement

Monday, 31 May 2021

Queensland Courts are treating domestic violence offences as more serious offending, warranting the greater use of custodial penalties as well as longer custodial penalties.

Research released today by Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council examined the difference in sentencing outcomes for cases involving common assault or assault occasioning bodily harm (AOBH) when sentenced as domestic violence (DV) offences compared to cases sentenced for those offences when they were not DV related.

Council Chair, John Robertson said the research brief, The impact of domestic violence as an aggravating factor on sentencing outcomes, reveals cases sentenced in Queensland criminal courts as domestic violence offences were more likely to result in custodial penalties compared to non-domestic violence cases.

“Of the 15,800 adult cases sentenced in Queensland between 5 May 2016 to 30 June 2019 involving charges of either common assault or assault occasioning bodily harm, 4,611 were domestic violence offences,” Mr Robertson said.

“Custodial penalties were more commonly imposed for domestic violence offences than for non-domestic violence offences, although there was some variation in the types of custodial orders given for different offence types and at different court levels.

“The most important thing to take away from this research paper is Queensland courts are treating domestic violence offences as being more serious for sentencing purposes than offences not occurring in a domestic violence context.

“We are seeing a greater use of custodial penalties and longer custodial sentences being imposed on offenders who commit common assault or assault occasioning bodily harm in a domestic violence setting.”

Mr Robertson said the release of the paper is timely given May is Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month.

“Domestic and family violence is never acceptable,” Mr Robertson said.

“Queensland legislation changed in May 2016 to strengthen the justice system’s response to offences occurring in the context of domestic and family violence.

“This was an important change. Courts must now treat a domestic violence offence as an aggravating factor for the purposes of sentencing, unless the court considers this is not reasonable because of the exceptional circumstances of the case.”

Mr Robertson noted earlier legislative reforms in 2015 had also been important in ensuring patterns of domestic violence offending could be identified for sentencing purposes.

He said the separate identification of criminal offences as ‘domestic violence offences’ where committed in a domestic violence context not only allowed this behaviour to be more readily identified on an offender’s criminal history, but also had the added benefit of allowing research bodies, such as the Council, to undertake research into differences in sentencing outcomes.

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