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Aim: To examine trends in the use of conditional discharges in New South Wales Local Courts between 2004 and 2015.
Method: Data for adults found guilty of at least one offence in the New South Wales Local Courts between January 2004 and September 2015 were examined. Multivariate logistic regression models were used to determine whether the likelihood of receiving a bond without conviction under section 10(1)(b) of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 (NSW) has changed over time after other relevant offence and offender characteristics have been taken into account. Interactions between year of index contact and other variables, such as offence type, were also explored in these models. Models were estimated for all offences and then separately for drug offences (which showed the largest increase in the use of s10(1)(b) bonds without conviction).
Results: The regression analyses showed that year of index contact had a significant positive effect on the odds of receiving a bond without conviction for all matters. Significant interaction effects between year of index contact and offence type suggested that the increase in bonds without conviction varied across crime type, with the largest increase observed amongst drug offences. When looking specifically at drug offences, significant differences in the rise of bonds without conviction were found across drug offence type.
Conclusion: Rates of conditional discharges have been rising in New South Wales Local Courts over the past twelve years, even after controlling for the profile of matters coming before the courts.