Research amplifies 14 years of Queensland sentencing trends

Media release

Thursday, 20 May 2021

New research released by the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council shows that nearly half of the people sentenced between 2005 and 2019 were sentenced multiple times and the length of imprisonment for adults increased over that period.

The Baseline report – The sentencing of people in Queensland, brings together 14 years of data, framing a solid picture of the people and offences sentenced across the state, as well as the penalties imposed by the courts.

Council Chair, John Robertson said the research paper presented detailed facts about offending patterns, trends in offences and recidivism, and descriptions of sentencing outcomes, in a way that has not been done before.

“Assembling 14 years of data in the one report gives us a comprehensive look at how we’ve been sentencing the people of Queensland,” Mr Robertson said.

“Between July 2005 and June 2019, 781,587 unique offenders were involved in more than 2.2 million cases sentenced in Queensland courts.

“We found that while the rate of unique offenders has decreased by 25.9 per cent, the number of cases sentenced in Queensland courts has remained relatively unchanged. This means that a smaller number of offenders are sentenced for a similar number of cases.”

The Baseline report shows that within the 14-year period, the rate of offending was highest in remote areas and lowest in major cities.

“What we found staggering was the increase in sentencing events for the offence of contravention of a domestic violence order, which more than doubled over the period,” Mr Robertson said.

“Other notable increases in sentenced events were for possession of drug utensils and possession of dangerous drugs.

“It’s likely there are a number of reasons for these increases – we can’t say that these offences were being committed more often, but the data tells us that they are being brought to court more often,” Mr Robertson said.

Other key findings included the proportion of cases involving female offenders gradually increased over time (from 20.8 per cent in 2005–06 to 25.6 per cent in 2018–19); traffic and vehicle offences comprised 38.5 per cent of all sentenced cases; offences involving theft, unlawful entry and property offences were common among children, with stealing as the most common offence, followed by wilful damage.

Monetary orders (74.5%) were the most common type of penalty for adults, followed by custodial penalties at 10.2 per cent.

"Bringing data together allows us to look at facts in context and give them meaning,” Mr Robertson said.

“The data presented in this report can also be used as a baseline to compare the results of other papers such as Connecting the Dots – the sentencing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Council’s Sentencing Profiles series.”

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