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Criminal Law Noticeboard February 2021 - Finalised Court Appearances Down, Local Courts Worst Hit by Pandemic

Content updates

The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) has released updated Statistics for the NSW Criminal Courts which have indicated that finalised criminal court appearances were lower in each jurisdiction, with the Local Court down by 14% from the previous year.

The statistics are intended to cover the characteristics of Court finalisations over five years to June 2020 across a large range of variables including: court outcomes, bail/remand status, sentencing patterns and court delay.

Overall Snapshot – Finalised Court Appearances

  • Overall finalised criminal court appearances declined by 13.6% from the previous year, with 120,656 recorded in 2019/20;
  • Local Court finalised criminal court appearances fell by 14% from 128,623 in 2018/19 to 110,622 in 2019/20; and 
  • Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences had the largest drop, down 27.3% from 43,270 in 2018/19 to 31,437 in 2019/20.

BOCSAR was careful to highlight that the fall for traffic offences was largely due to the drink and drug driving reform implemented in May 2019, which moved first time low level drink driving and drug-presence offences from court to an Infringement Notices (fine) process.

Bail Snapshot

  • 32.6% of defendants in the District Court were bail refused at finalisation, up from 27.4% in 2018/19; and
  • 7.6% of defendants in the Local Court were bail refused at finalisation, up from 6.6% in 2018/19.

Sentencing Snapshot

  • The overall proportion of proven offenders sentenced to imprisonment increased from 11.1% to 11.3% in 2019/20;
  • 70.4% of proven offenders in the District Court were sentenced to imprisonment, up from 63.0% in 2018/19; and
  • 9.1% of proven offenders in the Local Court were sentenced to imprisonment, up from 8.0% in 2018/19.

BOCSAR indicated that the rise in imprisonment was likely due to the changing case mix of matters finalised in the second quarter of 2020.

Court Delay Snapshot

  • Median trial time from committal to outcome in the District Court was 371 days and is considered to be stable; and
  • Median time taken to finalise defended criminal matters in the Local Court increased from 198 days to 213 days.

BOCSAR notes that, in general, the declines are largely due to changes to court operations to protect the safety of court users during the COVID-19 pandemic. Measures taken in the Local Courts included postponement of defended hearings, sentencing matters likely to result in a custodial penalty and first listing of summary matters involving no bail considerations while in the higher courts, new judge alone trials in the District Court, new jury trials, sentencing hearings, arraignments and readiness hearings for defendants awaiting their court appearance in the community were suspended.

Access the full report on the BOSCAR website.

The Criminal Law Practice Area on Westlaw has many services that are designed to complement each other to provide the breadth of coverage of a single compendium but with the in-depth analysis that specific focus areas will allow. In addition, the Alert and the reports series will also enable practitioners to keep up to date with pertinent caselaw. When taken in its entirety, the Criminal Law Practice Area will furnish subscribers with a full picture of Criminal Law in the respective jurisdictions without the necessary restrictions of single services. The Criminal Law Noticeboard is specifically geared for specialists in the area and will deliver news items of interest and significance written and curated by in-house editors. To subscribe to the Criminal Law Practice Area on Westlaw, contact Thomson Reuters.
Headshort of Wyn Diong
By Wyn Diong
Senior Content Manager

Wyn is an experienced Senior Content Manager in the Analytical Law Team at Thomson Reuters with a long history of working in the information services industry. She holds a Bachelor of Media and a Postgraduate Certificate in TESOL from Macquarie University. In her years with Thomson Reuters, she has worked on multifarious publications in both Primary Law and Secondary Sources and is at present, nurturing multiple subscription services including Uniform Evidence Law, Indictable Offences Queensland and Victorian Courts. She is the (co)author of numerous articles on Legal Insight covering a diverse range of topics. Prior to joining Thomson Reuters, she worked for Pan Macmillan Australia at the Macquarie Dictionary and taught English as a Second Language and Academic English at Macquarie University.

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