The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) has recently released a summary of crime statistics for the March 2014 quarter. This report shows a number of interesting trends in criminal activity, sentencing and time taken to finalise court cases in the state.
Increase in domestic violence, indecent assault and fraud convictions
According to the BOCSAR statistics, in the two years leading up to March 2014, there were only three offence types which increased in frequency. These were domestic violence related assault (an increase of 2.5%), indecent assault, act of indecency and other sexual offences which increased by 12.1% and fraud which showed an increase of 8.6%.
It is possible that the increase in domestic violence assault could be at least in part attributed to an increased willingness to report these offences. As there is also an increase in domestic violence assault leading to grievous bodily harm it is likely that there is a genuine increase as the severity of this type of domestic violence means it’s less likely to go unreported.
There has also been an increase in reports of indecent assault and sexual offences against children. As well as increases in the reporting of current offences, the number of people reporting historical cases and child indecent assaults has also risen. 84% of the increase in victims of indecent assault and sexual offences are girls aged 17 years old or younger.
The majority of the increase in fraud offences relate to unauthorised use of credit cards and it could also be due to changes in police reporting and processes, particularly where failing to pay for petrol offences are concerned.
Other increases, in prohibited and regulated weapons offences, breach of bail and pornography offences were believed to be a reflection on increased police enforcement activity rather than an increase in the number of offences being committed.
Decline in many major offences
Seven other major offences showed a decline in recent years. These include robbery without a weapon, break and enter (dwelling and non-dwelling), vehicle theft, stealing from a motor vehicle, stealing from a person and malicious damage to property. All other offences were stable.
Time to finalise trial cases increased
According to recent Criminal Court Statistics, the time taken to finalise trial cases in the district court has significantly increased in the last few years. A report released by BOCSAR reveals that between 2012 and 2013 the time between committal and outcome for defendants who were released on bail increased by 23%. Additionally, the time from committal to outcome for defendants who were remanded in custody increased by 6%.
As well as increased time to finalisation of trial cases, there was an overall increase in the number of cases finalised in the higher courts, mostly in the district court. The overall increase in number of people dealt with in the district court was 9.7% with the largest increases in people charged with robbery, extortion and related offences. Unlawful entry with intent and burglary, break and enter charges were also high on the list of offences which increased during this time.
Both the higher courts and the local court saw an increase in the number of people sentenced to imprisonment between 2012 and 2013 with an increase from 1,943 to 2,169 in the higher courts and an increase from 6,901 to 7,408 in the local court. As well as this, the percentage of local court defendants who were on remand at their final court appearance increased from 5.8% to 6.5%.
The children’s court didn’t see any change in percentage of defendants sentenced to a control order but the number who were given a control order had a slight reduction from 727 to 695. The number of defendants on remand at the time of their final court appearance in the children’s court showed a small increase, from 11.9% to 12.6%.