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Impact of the High Range PCA Guideline Judgement on Sentencing for PCA Offences in NSW

NCJ Number
Stephanie d'Apice
Date Published
November 2008
11 pages
This bulletin assesses the impact of a guideline judgment issued by the New South Wales (NSW) Court of Criminal Appeal for the offense of high-range prescribed concentration of alcohol (PCA), which pertains to one of the most serious summary offenses addressed by local courts under the NSW Safety and Traffic Management Act of 1999.
The NSW guideline judgment system was created in response to criticisms about inconsistencies and leniency in sentencing outcome for particular offenses. As a result of perceived systemic leniency in sentencing, the Attorney General applied to the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal (CCA) for a guideline judgment for the offense of high-range PCA. In its decision, the CCA held that courts were not imposing sentences that reflected the objective seriousness of the offense. Accordingly, in September 2004, a five-judge bench of the CCA delivered a guideline judgment for the offense of high-range PCA. In issuing the guideline judgment, the CCA constructed features of an ordinary case of high-range PCA for use as a model against which a sentencing court could determine whether the case being considered was similar or more/less severe. The CCA also presented two important principles regarding appropriate penalty types for an ordinary high-range PCA. First, the court held that although nonconviction orders could be used in cases of high-range PCA offenses, their use was rarely appropriate. The court also held that the automatic period of license disqualification was always appropriate unless there was good reason to reduce the disqualification period, such as the nature of the offender's employment. The findings of the study of the impact of this guideline judgment show that it has been effective in increasing the severity and consistency of sentencing for high-range PCA offenses. 11 figures, 3 tables, 5 notes, and 2 references