A statistical snapshot of crime and justice in New South Wales

Justice Crime Courts Prisons Communities New South Wales
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Examines community perceptions of crime and safety, offender rates and characteristics, crime rates, victims; measures of policy effectiveness, courts (including bail and sentencing outcomes);recidivism; corrections (including prison population levels); and expenditure on the criminal justice system.

Crime and justice are complex and often contested concepts. A range of factors are believed to “cause” crime, including: economic hardship; social disadvantage; sexual abuse; alcohol and drug use; and psychological characteristics, including mental illness. The aims of the criminal justice system are similarly diverse, and include: community protection; specific deterrence; general deterrence; denunciation; retribution; and rehabilitation.

As former Chief Justice Spigelman said:

"These objectives do not always point in the same direction. The requirements of justice and the requirements of mercy are often in conflict, but we live in a society which values both justice and mercy."

Conceptual debate about crime and justice is one thing; the empirical measurement of the criminal justice system in action is another.

As Don Weatherburn, Director of the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, said:

"… [W]hether we like them or not, crime statistics are here to stay. We have to make judgments about the prevalence of crime, about trends in crime, about the distribution of crime and about the impact of Government efforts to prevent and control crime. We cannot base these judgements on personal experience and anecdote. They have to be based on statistical information. The challenge facing those who produce and use crime statistics is how to do so in a way which is not misleading and helps rather than hinders our understanding of crime."

This paper looks at the following aspects of the criminal justice system: community perceptions of crime and safety; offender rates and characteristics; crime rates; victims; measures of police effectiveness; courts (including bail and sentencing outcomes); recidivism; corrections (including prison population levels); and expenditure on the criminal justice system. By undertaking this empirical enquiry, the paper seeks to assist in identifying whether legislative and policy reforms to crime and justice are effective in achieving their stated objectives.



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