Sentences

Sentences are handed down by criminal courts to people that are convicted of committing an offence. Where more than one sentence was imposed on a convicted offender within a calendar year, only the most serious sentence was counted in this analysis, consistent with their presentation in the Table Builder statistics.

Table Builder provides information on the age, gender, ethnicity, court region, type of offence, and type of sentence for all convicted offenders. 

Changes to legislation

Legislation passed during the decade has affected sentencing patterns. In 2002, the Sentencing Act 2002 and the Parole Act 2002 largely replaced the Criminal Justice Act 1985. These Acts altered the sentences available to the courts, especially in relation to community-based sentences. In particular, the sentences of periodic detention, community service and community programme were abolished, and the sentence of community work was introduced.

The Sentencing Act placed greater emphasis on the use of fines and reparation than its preceding Act. Subsequently, the Sentencing Amendment Act 2007 created the new sentences of home detention, community detention and intensive supervision. Community detention is a community based sentence that requires an offender to comply with specified curfews. These curfews are electronically monitored.

In this Bulletin, periodic detention and community service sentences have been incorporated within community work, while community programme sentences have been included within supervision.

Key numbers and trends in sentences

Of the 97,028 most serious sentences in 2010, 38,753 (40%) were monetary penalties (fines or reparation) and 25,960 (27%) were sentenced to community work as the most serious sentence (Table 1). Less common sentence types included imprisonment (9%), supervision (3%), and conviction and discharge (6%).

The sentences of home detention, community detention and intensive supervision together accounted for about 11% of most serious sentences handed down in 2010. Home detention accounted for 3,553 of these sentences in 2010, and community detention for a further 5,012.

The number of people sentenced to imprisonment as their most serious sentence grew between 2001 and 2010. The proportion of all convictions resulting in a sentence of imprisonment was similar at both ends of the decade at around 9%. The proportion of people sentenced to imprisonment peaked at more than 11% in 2005 but dropped off again following the introduction of home detention as an additional custodial sentence – and an alternative to imprisonment – in 2007.

Table 1: Number of sentences handed down by sentence type,
2001-2010

Sentence type

2001

2003

2005

2007

2009

2010

Imprisonment

6,745

7,942

8,937

8,804

8,707

8,884

Home detention

-

-

-

294

2,632

3,553

Community detention

-

-

-

227

3,295

5,012

Intensive supervision

-

-

-

218

1,561

1,880

Community work

20,202

20,594

19,907

22,425

25,021

25,960

Supervision

2,738

1,438

1,713

2,198

2,966

3,103

Monetary

38,351

40,568

39,428

43,795

43,570

38,753

Other

3,258

3,547

3,508

4,262

4,573

4,315

Discharge

3,969

4,271

4,685

5,009

6,163

5,568

Total

75,263

77,910

78,178

87,232

98,488

97,028

Note: Imprisonment sentences include: life imprisonment, imprisonment and preventive detention.