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NCJ Number: 204261 Find in a Library
Title: Suspended Sentences in New South Wales
Author(s): Georgia Brignell; Patrizia Poletti
Date Published: November 2003
Page Count: 16
Sponsoring Agency: Judicial Cmssn of New South Wales
Sydney NSW, 2000
Sale Source: Judicial Cmssn of New South Wales
Level 5
301 George Street
Sydney NSW,
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Document
Language: English
Country: Australia
Annotation: After examining the law and use of suspended sentences (a sentence of imprisonment that has been imposed but not executed) in New South Wales (Australia) courts, this report presents findings from an assessment of the implementation and impact of suspended sentences.
Abstract: The suspended sentence was introduced as a sentencing option in New South Wales (NSW) on April 3, 2000, following a recommendation of the NSW Law Reform Commission, which concluded that suspended sentences were useful in situations where the seriousness of an offense had mitigating circumstances that justified the offender's conditional release. The Commission advised that suspended sentences are appropriate when other forms of conditional release do not allow for a sufficient element of denunciation of the offense. In applying statistical analysis to the use of the suspended sentence in NSW since its introduction, this study focused on the frequency of its use in the local, higher, and children's courts; the most common duration of suspended sentences imposed by the courts; the impact of suspended sentences on sentencing patterns in the courts; and whether there has been any "net widening" or "sentence escalation." The study found that 9,278 suspended sentences have been imposed in the local courts and 894 in the higher courts up to December 31, 2002, accounting for 4.2 percent of all penalties imposed in the local courts in which imprisonment was an available sanction. Suspended sentences accounted for 11.7 percent of penalties in the higher courts. The offense for which suspended sentences were most often imposed in the local courts was driving while disqualified. In the higher courts, the offense most often receiving a suspended sentence was supplying less than a commercial quantity of a prohibited drug. In the local courts, magistrates most often imposed sentences of 6 or 12 months; and judges in the higher courts were most likely to impose terms of 24 months. Although the legislation requires that suspended sentences be strictly imposed as an alternative to full-time custody, the statistical analysis suggests that courts sometimes impose suspended sentences in place of less severe penalties, such as community service orders and good-behavior bonds. Thus, there is little evidence to date that suspended sentences have contributed to any significant reduction in the prison population. Although the statistics suggest "net-widening" as an effect of suspended sentences, the sentencing patterns observed may be a result of other factors, such as harsher sentencing practices generally. Still, the relatively infrequent use of the suspended sentence may indicate a need to increase its use before there will be a noticeable impact on the prison population in NSW. 4 tables, 2 figures, and 72 notes
Main Term(s): Foreign courts
Index Term(s): Alternatives to institutionalization; Foreign laws; Foreign sentencing; Foreign sentencing statistics; Net widening; Suspended sentences
Note: Sentencing Trends & Issues, No. 29, November 2003.
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