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Sentencing Commonwealth Drug Offenders

NCJ Number
Pierrrette Mizzi; Zeinab Baghizadeh; Patrizia Poletti
Date Published
140 pages

This study from the Judicial Commission of NSW (New South Wales) examined the sentencing patterns for serious drug offenses in Australia.


This study on the sentencing patterns for serious drug offenses in Australia found that the vast majority of offenders sentenced for offenses according to the Criminal Code of Australia were sentenced to a term of full-time imprisonment; a significant majority of the offenders plead guilty and a significant majority had no prior criminal record; the sentences imposed on offenders whose offenses involved commercial quantities of GBL were significantly lower than the sentences imposed for offenses involving drugs such as heroin, cocaine, MDMA, and methamphetamines; there were particular types of offenses where the offenders were not sentenced to a full-time jail term and those offenses typically involved particular drug types with a maximum penalty less than 25 years; and the majority of offenders receiving a jail term were acting in the common role of a courier. This study of the sentencing patterns for serious drug offenses in Australia was conducted as part of an effort to determine the consistency with which these sentences are applied. The study used raw sentencing data from the DPP's (Director of Public Prosecutions') Commonwealth Sentencing Database which contains sentencing information for all matters prosecuted by the DPP. Data for the period 2008-2012 were examined to determine the frequency of serious drug offenses by year and State/Territory; the types of penalties imposed for these offenses; the relationship between sentencing factors and terms of imprisonment to determine factors most likely to influence sentence length; the level of national consistency in sentencing patterns; and the sentencing factors most strongly associated with fixing non-parole periods. The findings from the study suggest the need for judges to be familiar with the range of sentences applied for these offenses and with recent court decisions affecting sentencing laws. Tables, figures, references, appendixes