Have New South Wales criminal courts become more lenient in the past 20 years?

Crime Courts Prisons Australia New South Wales

Aim: To investigate whether the NSW Higher and Local Courts have become more lenient across a range of offence categories.

Method: Examination of trends from 1994 to 2013 in bail outcomes, the use of imprisonment as a sanction for convicted offenders, and average length of prison sentence imposed for convicted offenders.

Results: The NSW criminal courts have become more restrictive in the granting of bail; have increased their use of imprisonment for convicted offenders; and have lengthened average prison sentences across many offence types in the past two decades.

Conclusion: There is no evidence that the NSW criminal courts have become more lenient overall in the past two decades; on the contrary, sentencing has become more severe in many offence categories.

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