Community attitudes to offence seriousness

3 May 2012

This report presents key findings from community panels about offence seriousness and how participants weighed the factors that render different offences more or less serious.

The research was conducted as part of the Maximum Penalties project, a review by the Sentencing Advisory Council of the maximum penalties for 250 offences to be included in a new Crimes Bill.

The findings indicate that community members have divergent views about the relative seriousness of offences. The judgment of offence seriousness is subjective and can be influenced by a range of factors. Judgments of offence seriousness by individual members of the community can vary according to each person’s experiences, perceptions and views. If the views of this group of respondents are representative of community thinking, it appears the community does not share a single set of common attitudes towards relative offence seriousness. However, despite the variation in attitudes to offence seriousness for some offences, there was consensus among participants that offences involving direct harms to people are considered the most serious. In particular, there was a high level of agreement among participants that offences involving the deliberate infliction of harm, sexually violent offences and sexual offences against children are among the most serious offences.

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