Latest sentencing research tells it as it is
Latest research by the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council shows that while fewer Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are committing offences overall, those who are, are more likely to receive a sentence of imprisonment.
Primarily focusing on the 52,937 unique Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander offenders sentenced in 321,669 cases in the Queensland courts over 14 years, July 2005 to June 2019, Connecting the dots: the sentencing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Queensland, examines trends and patterns in the sentencing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Retired judge and Council Chair, John Robertson, said Connecting the dots – the first paper in a new Sentencing Profile series – reveals the rate of unique offenders decreased for First Nations peoples from 88.7 offenders per 1,000 in 2005–06 down to 78.2 offenders per 1,000 in 2018–19.
“However, the data shows the rate of imprisonment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander offenders increased from 11.4 offenders per 1,000 population in 2005–06 up to 17.0 offenders per 1,000 in 2018–19,” Mr Robertson said.
“People who identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander represent 3.8 per cent of the Queensland population aged 10 years and over and disproportionately this group accounts for 14.5 per cent of cases sentenced.”
Unique to Connecting the dots is the inclusion of insights and reflections of members of the Council’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Panel which lend a personal context to the statistics and give a greater understanding of why the report findings are significant.
Waka Waka man, Council member and Chair of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Panel, Bevan Costello, said explaining the broader context of why Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples might offend and the factors that may impact their sentencing was key to understanding over-representation in the criminal justice system.
“This report tells it as it is,” Mr Costello said. “It lays out the statistics and includes our stories that talk about the chronic disadvantage experienced by First Nations peoples.”
“Connecting the dots gives an understanding of the realities of our mob in the criminal justice system.”
The Council created the Sentencing Profile series after it identified a gap in publicly available, in-depth and up-to-date analysis of different demographic groups and how they are being sentenced in the criminal justice system.
Each report in the series will cover patterns of offending (age, gender and location), trends in offences being committed and offender recidivism rates, and associated penalty and sentencing outcomes.
Mr Robertson said future research papers in the Sentencing Profile series will investigate sentencing trends and patterns for children as well as women and girls in Queensland, with reports in the series supported by a soon to be released Baseline Report which will provide a statistical overview of sentencing of all offenders in Queensland between 2005–06 and 2018–19.
The Sentencing Profile series is available on the Council’s website.