Latest sentencing research tells it as it is – First Nations offending down, but incarceration more likely

The Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council (QSAC) today released a report revealing that, while fewer of the state’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are committing criminal offences overall, those who have are more likely to be sentenced to imprisonment.

QSAC Chair and retired Queensland District and Childrens Court judge John Robertson today said the ‘Connecting the Dots’ report was the first in QSAC’s new Sentencing Profile series and revealed that the rate of unique offenders decreased for First Nations peoples from 88.7 offenders per 1000 in 2005-06 to 78.2 offenders per 1000 in 2018-19.

Mr Robertson, in a written statement, said: “Primarily focusing on the 52,937 unique Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander offenders sentenced in 321,669 cases in the Queensland courts over 14 years, July 2005 to June 2019, ‘Connecting the dots: the sentencing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Queensland’ examines trends and patterns in the sentencing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“However, the data shows the rate of imprisonment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander offenders increased from 11.4 offenders per 1000 population in 2005-06 up to 17.0 offenders per 1000 in 2018-19.

“People who identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander represent 3.8% of the Queensland population aged 10-years and over, and disproportionately this group accounts for 14.5% of cases sentenced.”

He said unique insights and reflections of members of the council’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Panel had been included in the report and lent a personal context to the statistics, giving a greater understanding of why the findings were so significant.

Waka Waka man, QSAC member and Chair of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Panel Bevan Costello said explaining the broader context of why Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples might offend and the factors that may impact their sentencing was key to understanding their over-representation in the criminal justice system.

“This report tells it as it is,” Mr Costello said. “It lays out the statistics and includes our stories that talk about the chronic disadvantage experienced by First Nations peoples.

“’Connecting the dots’ gives an understanding of the realities of our mob in the criminal justice system.”

The council created the Sentencing Profile series after it identified a gap in publicly available, in-depth and up-to-date analysis of different demographic groups and how they are being sentenced in the criminal justice system.

Each report in the series will cover patterns of offending (age, gender and location), trends in offences being committed and offender recidivism rates, and associated penalty and sentencing outcomes.

Mr Robertson said future research in the Sentencing Profile series would investigate sentencing trends and patterns for children as well as women and girls in Queensland, with reports in the series supported by a soon-to-be-released Baseline Report which will provide a statistical overview of sentencing of all offenders in Queensland between 2005–06 and 2018–19.

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