Sentencing Advisory Council report confirms a system approaching crisis

Sentencing Advisory Council report confirms a system approaching crisis

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Sentencing Advisory Council report: image of hands on jail bars

A report released by the Sentencing Advisory Council (SAC) this week reveals a significant increase in the number of offences that arose from breaches of conditions placed on offenders suspected, or convicted, of a substantive offence. 

The report shows that the significant increase in secondary offences is due largely to two new bail-related offences introduced in December 2013: contravening a condition of bail and committing an indictable offence while on bail.

Of the 100,860 secondary offences sentenced in the five years to 30 June 2016:

  • 70 per cent were for bail-related offences, such as failing to attend court when required
  • 25 per cent were related to sentences, such as contravening a community correction order.    

Executive Director Criminal Law Helen Fatouros said the increase in bail-related offences is contributing to increased pressure on the criminal justice the system.

‘The report confirms what we know from our Summary Crime Evaluation: workload volumes in the Magistrates’ Court are increasing and the system is at crisis point. The complexity of matters has also been increasing.'

Executive Director Criminal Law Helen Fatouros

The secondary offences ‘churn’

‘We know from the Coghlan Bail Review that there are lots of low-level matters that do not need to be clogging up the court. Secondary offences are taking up a disproportionate amount of court time,’ Ms Fatouros said.

‘If people are appropriately supported on bail through positive programs such as the Court Integrated Services Program, they are less likely to breach their bail conditions. This would help reduce some of the secondary offences churn.’

Ms Fatouros said that increased demand was also due to the impact of additional police, complexity around the use of ice and other synthetic drugs, and increased family violence reporting.

‘The additional 3000 police who have begun coming on board will add to the pressures on the system,’ she said.

‘All participants in the system need to be funded properly to cope with the demand the new police will bring.’

Rising remand numbers

In our submission to the Bail Review, we recommended that access to bail not be further restricted.

‘Delays in progressing accused people’s matters through the courts is a growing problem. The number of people on remand has increased significantly over the past few years, more than doubling in Victoria in the last six years.

‘Further restrictions on access to bail will add to the number of people on remand,’ Ms Fatouros said.

More information

What is a secondary offence?

A secondary offence is a crime that occurs when someone suspected or convicted of a criminal offence, who is living in the community while subject to special conditions, breaches one or more of these conditions (for example, by not complying with a curfew condition of bail). Secondary offences fall into one of four categories: offences related to bail, offences related to a sentencing order, offences related to parole and offences that apply to people suspected or convicted of a registrable sex offence.

Source: Sentencing Advisory Council, 26 September 2017.