Number of domestic violence cases clogging courts ‘staggering’

A review of 14 years of sentencing data has revealed fewer one-off offenders are appearing in court, and the regulars are getting longer jail terms.

May 21, 2021, updated May 21, 2021

The Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council review found nearly half of the people sentenced between 2005 and 2019 were repeat offenders and the length of imprisonment for adults increased over that time.

In the higher courts, the average jail term increased from 2.6 years to three years, while in the Magistrates Courts it jumped from 5.8 years to 8.2 years.

Council chair John Robertson said there had been a 25.9 per cent decrease in “unique offenders” during the period, but the number of cases being sentenced remained relatively unchanged.

“This means that a smaller number of offenders are sentenced for a similar number of cases,” said Robertson, a former judge.

The Palaszczuk government has vowed to target recidivist offenders in a youth crime crackdown.

The sentencing data could not be used to demonstrate whether certain crimes were being committed more often, but it showed certain cases, and people, were in court more often.

“It’s no surprise that we found Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to be over-represented, or that more than three-quarters of sentenced cases involved male offenders,” Robertson said.

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“But what was staggering was the increase in sentencing events for the offence of contravention of a domestic violence order, which more than doubled over the period.”

A senior Queensland police officer today called for domestic violence to be a distinct criminal offence. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she expected the proposal to be considered in a broader review headed by former Court of Appeal judge Margaret McMurdo.

Over the period, the proportion of female offenders increased to more than a quarter, traffic and vehicle offences made up 38.5 per cent of all sentenced cases, and there was a surge in drug cases taken to court.

The average age of offenders was around 31, and cases that made it to sentencing were more likely to have been committed in remote areas of Queensland.

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