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