Aim: To investigate the impact of the 2015 Domestic Violence Evidence-in-Chief (DVEC) reforms on court outcomes for Domestic Violence (DV) assaults in New South Wales (NSW).
Method: Court outcome data from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research’s Reoffending Database (ROD) and DVEC data from the NSW Police Force’s Computerised Operational Policing System (COPS) were extracted for the period January 2014 to June 2016. These data were used to assess the impact of DVEC using two different identification strategies. First, an Instrumental Variables approach was employed in order to estimate the causal effect of a DVEC statement on the probabilities that an individual defendant: i) has at least one proven offence (a conviction) or ii) pleads guilty to at least one offence at their court appearance. We also use this approach in order to estimate the impact of a DVEC statement on the time taken to finalise a DV assault matter conditional on a guilty plea being entered. Second, a dynamic panel data model with fixed effects was employed in order to investigate the relationship between each Local Area Command’s (LAC’s) monthly conviction and guilty plea rate for DV assaults and its uptake of DVEC.
Results: We find no evidence to indicate that DVEC has had a significant impact on the probability of a guilty plea or the time to finalisation for matters resulting in a guilty plea. We do, however, find limited evidence to indicate that the presence of a DVEC statement may increase the probability of a conviction by about two percentage points. With respect to the monthly LAC level analysis, we find no evidence to indicate that a LAC’s DVEC uptake rate has any significant effect on its rate of convictions or guilty pleas. Both of these results are extremely robust to a variety of specifications.
Conclusions: Once factors like seasonality and systematic differences between LACs are taken into account, there is limited evidence of a significant impact of the NSW DVEC reforms on court outcomes for DV assaults.