1 February 2009 Barry Woodhouse Sentencing outcomes for trafficking drugs in the Magistrates Court of Victoria Summary Contents Summary 1 Introduction 2 Trends 2 People sentenced 3 Overview of sentencing outcomes 4 Custodial sentences 5 Multiple trafficking 6 Endnotes 7 This report provides an overview of the sentencing outcomes imposed for drug trafficking in the Magistrates Court. The report compares outcomes for amphetamines, cannabis, heroin, ecstasy and other (type of drug). In doing so, it brings together the analyses presented in each of the four 1 Sentencing Snapshots on drug trafficking in the Magistrates Court. The Magistrates Court sentenced 3,714 people 2 for the principal offence of trafficking a drug of dependence between and The most common drug was cannabis (1,485 people or 40.0%) followed by heroin (1,013 people or 27.3%), amphetamines (594 people or 16.0%), ecstasy (312 people or 8.4%) and other (310 people or 8.3%). Over this period, the majority of those sentenced were men (3,064 people or 82.5%). The age of people sentenced for trafficking a drug of dependence ranged from 17 to 81 years, with the median age being 29 years. This was consistent for the differing types of drugs, with the exception of ecstasy, where the median age was 23 years. The majority of people sentenced for trafficking a drug of dependence received a non-custodial sentence (42.1% or 1563 people), such as a community-based order (24.4% or 905 people) or a fine (11.6% or 429 people). Imprisonment also accounted for one in six sentencing outcomes (16.0% or 596 people). Individuals sentenced for trafficking heroin were more likely to receive a custodial sentence (73.1% of all sentences for this offence). People sentenced for trafficking ecstasy were amongst the least likely to receive a custodial sentence (40.7% of all sentences for this offence). Sentencing Advisory Council Level 4, 436 Lonsdale Street Melbourne Victoria 3000 Australia Telephone Facsimile
2 2 Introduction This report describes sentencing outcomes for the offence of trafficking a drug of dependence and compares the outcomes for five different types of drugs. The five types of trafficking a drug of dependence are amphetamines, cannabis, heroin, ecstasy and other. 3 A person who trafficks or attempts to traffick in a drug of dependence without legal authorisation is guilty of an indictable offence. 4 The maximum penalty is 15 years imprisonment and/ or a fine of 1800 penalty units. 5 The Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 (Vic) does not distinguish between the various types of drug in terms of the maximum penalty that can be imposed in respect of this offence. 6 These offences may be heard summarily in the Magistrates Court if it is considered appropriate and the defendant consents. This tends to occur where the offence is seen by the court as being less serious in nature. Where an offence is tried summarily, the matter will be heard before a magistrate rather than a judge and jury. When heard summarily, these trafficking offences carry a maximum penalty of 2 years imprisonment and/or 240 penalty units. 7 Approximately 87% of matters where the principal proven offence was trafficking a drug of dependence were heard in the Magistrates Court. 8 Trends In , the Magistrates Court sentenced 846 people for the principal proven offence of trafficking a drug of dependence. This is a slight increase from the previous year (805 people), though this is down from (1,066 people) and (997 people). Figure 1: The number of people sentenced for trafficking a drug of dependence, to Number Figure 2 shows the total number of people sentenced for each of the five drug types over the four-year period. As demonstrated below, cannabis makes up the greatest proportion of the drug types involved (40.0%), followed by heroin (27.3%), amphetamines (16.0%) and ecstasy (8.4%). Figure 2: The number of people sentenced for trafficking a drug of dependence, to Number
3 Trafficking drugs February 2009 Barry Woodhouse 3 People sentenced As can be seen in Figure 3, and saw marked declines in the number of people sentenced for trafficking cannabis and heroin from the previous two years. For trafficking cannabis, the number of people sentenced declined from a high of 429 in to 329 in and remained relatively stable in at 326 people. The number of people sentenced for trafficking heroin has consistently declined, from 372 people in to 401 in , 186 in and finally 160 in In , the number of people sentenced for trafficking amphetamines and trafficking ecstasy increased, rising from 148 to 176 and 73 to 103 respectively. The number of people sentenced for trafficking an other drug of dependence has remained relatively consistent across the four-year period. Figure 3: The number of people sentenced for each drug trafficking category, to Number Over the four-year period, the majority of those sentenced were men (3,064 people or 82.5%). 9 The age of people sentenced for trafficking a drug of dependence ranged from 17 years to 81 years, while the median age was 29 years (meaning that half of the people were aged 29 years or younger and half were 29 years or older). Women sentenced tended to be older than men (a median age of 31 years compared to 28 years). Table 1 shows the number of people sentenced for each type of drug trafficking by their age and gender. Overall, women made up less then one fifth of all people sentenced and were most represented in the traffick cannabis category, where they accounted for 19.5% of the population. In other drug categories women accounted for 17.6% of people sentenced for trafficking heroin, 16.3% of those sentenced for trafficking amphetamines, 14.8% of people sentenced for trafficking an other drug and 12.8% of people sentenced for trafficking ecstasy. The median ages for each type of drug trafficking were relatively consistent, generally ranging between 27 and 33 years. However, individuals sentenced for trafficking ecstasy were on average younger (a median age of 23 years), while people sentenced for trafficking cannabis tended to be somewhat older (33 for males and 36 for females) Table 1: The number and percentage of people sentenced for each type of trafficking by age and gender, to Total All people Number sentenced 594 1,485 1, ,714 Median age Males Number sentenced 497 1, ,056 Percentage 83.7% 80.5% 82.4% 87.2% 85.2% 82.5% Median age Females Number sentenced Percentage 16.3% 19.5% 17.6% 12.8% 14.8% 17.5% Median age
4 4 Overview of sentencing outcomes Table 2 shows the outcomes for people sentenced for each type of trafficking from to Over the four-year period, the majority of those sentenced received a non-custodial sentence (1,563 people or 42.1%) or an other custodial sentence (1,350 people or 36.3%). Immediate custodial sentences accounted for the remainder (801 people or 21.6%). Figure 4: The percentage of people sentenced for each trafficking a drug of dependence category by type of sentence, to % As can be seen in Figure 4, the sentences imposed varied according to the type of drug. Trafficking heroin had the highest proportion of individuals receiving an immediate custodial sentence (36.0%), followed by trafficking an other drug (24.5%), trafficking amphetamines (24.2%), cannabis (12.7%) and ecstasy (9.0%). Percentage 40.0% 20.0% custodial sentences, which included options such as drug treatment orders, wholly suspended sentences and intensive correction orders, were relatively consistent across the different drug trafficking types. Trafficking amphetamines had the highest proportion of individuals given a non-immediate custodial sentence (37.9%), compared to trafficking heroin (37.1%), trafficking cannabis (36.6%), trafficking an other drug (35.8%) and lastly trafficking ecstasy (31.7%). 0.0% Immediate custodial custodial Non custodial Non-custodial sentences were the most common outcome for all categories of trafficking a drug of dependence, with the exception of trafficking heroin. They accounted for 42.1% of all sentences or 1,563 people. The majority of non-custodial sentences were community-based orders (24.4% or 905 people), fines (11.6% or 429 people) and adjourned undertakings (6.1% or 226 people). Table 2: The number and percentage of people sentenced for trafficking each type of drug by sentence type, to Total Immediate custodial % % % % % % Imprisonment % % % % % % Partially suspended sentence % % % 9 2.9% % % Custody and treatment order 1 0.2% 2 0.1% 5 0.5% 2 0.6% % Youth justice centre order 2 0.3% 9 0.6% % 2 0.6% % custodial % % % % % 1, % Drug treatment order 4 0.7% 8 0.8% 3 1.0% % Home detention order 1 0.2% 3 0.2% 2 0.2% 1 0.3% 7 0.2% Wholly suspended sentence % % % % % % Intensive correction order % % % % % % Non-custodial % % % % % 1, % Community-based order % % % % % % Fine % % % % % % Adjourned undertaking % % % % % % Convicted and discharged 1 0.1% 1 0.1% People sentenced % 1, % 1, % % % 3, % Criminal justice diversion program Total dispositions 599 1,500 1, ,486
5 Trafficking drugs February 2009 Barry Woodhouse 5 Custodial sentences Community-based orders 10 were the most common non-custodial sentence type, accounting for almost a quarter of people sentenced for trafficking a drug of dependence (24.4%, or 905 people). A higher percentage of those sentenced for trafficking ecstasy received a community-based order (31.1%) compared to trafficking cannabis (28.1%), trafficking amphetamines (23.1%), trafficking an other drug (21.6%) and trafficking heroin (18.5%). A number of people participated in the criminal justice diversion program, 11 however this was uncommon and consisted of 29 cases out of 7,486 dispositions across the four-year period. Drug treatment orders were utilised infrequently (15 people or 0.4%) over the four-year period. This is because drug treatment orders have stringent conditions attached to eligibility and can only be imposed where the offence is dealt with at the Drug Court division of the Magistrates Court. While recording a conviction is mandatory for people sentenced to a custodial order, a magistrate may use discretion when deciding whether to record a conviction for people who receive a non-custodial order. 12 Of the people sentenced for trafficking a drug of dependence in and , 13 a conviction was recorded for 69.7% of the 366 people who received a community-based order, 69.4% of the 196 people who received a fine and 23.1% of the 104 people who received an adjourned undertaking. Overall, 84.8% of people sentenced had a conviction recorded in and Immediate and other custodial sentences combined accounted for 57.9% of all sentencing outcomes for trafficking a drug of dependence. When receiving an other custodial sentence, the majority of individuals were given a wholly suspended sentence (24.6% overall) or an intensive correction order (11.1% overall). The remaining people received either drug treatment orders (0.4%) or a home detention order (0.2%). Figure 5 details the percentage of people charged with each type of trafficking who were given a wholly suspended sentence. As can be seen below, this was relatively consistent across categories, with trafficking heroin and cannabis having the highest proportion of wholly suspended sentences (25.7%), followed by trafficking amphetamines (22.5%), trafficking an other drug (24.5%) and lastly trafficking ecstasy (20.2%). For individuals given an immediate custodial sentence, most received a term of imprisonment (16.0%) or a partially suspended sentence (4.6%). The remainder constituted only a small percentage of overall sentencing outcomes and received either a combined custody and treatment order (0.3%) or a youth justice centre order (0.6%). Figure 6 shows the percentage of people who received a sentence of imprisonment for each type of drug trafficking charge. As illustrated, those sentenced for trafficking heroin had the highest proportion of imprisonment sentences (28.5%), compared to other drugs (18.7%), amphetamines (18.2%), cannabis (8.2%) and ecstasy (6.1%). Figure 5: The percentage of people given a wholly suspended sentence for each trafficking a drug of dependence category, to % Figure 6: The percentage of people given a sentence of imprisonment for each trafficking a drug of dependence category, to % Percentage 20.0% 10.0% Percentage 20.0% 10.0% 0.0% 0.0%
6 6 Multiple trafficking Overall the length of imprisonment imposed for trafficking a drug of dependence ranged from one day to 3 years, 14 with a median of 6 months (meaning that half of the sentences imposed were less than 6 months and half were greater). People sentenced for trafficking amphetamines tended to receive longer sentences (a median of 9 months), when compared to trafficking an other drug (a median of 8 months) and trafficking heroin or cannabis (a median of 6 months for both). 15 This is shown in Figure 7. Figure 7: The average length of imprisonment of people sentenced for trafficking a drug of dependence by category, to Months imprisoned Many individuals were not only sentenced for a single type of drug trafficking, but also received sentences for other classes of drugs at the same time. Figure 8, illustrated below, shows the percentage of people for each principal sentence who were also charged with trafficking a drug of dependence from a different class. As can be seen, individuals sentenced for trafficking ecstasy where also amongst the most likely to be sentenced for trafficking other classes of drugs. Almost a quarter (22.4%) were also sentenced for trafficking amphetamines, 9.3% for trafficking cannabis and 8.7% for trafficking an other drug of dependence. Individuals sentenced for trafficking amphetamines also showed a relatively high propensity to be sentenced for trafficking other drug classes at the same time. Of these, cannabis was the most common co-occurring drug type, with 15.8%, followed by ecstasy (14.1%), other (5.7%) and heroin (0.8%). Of those sentenced for trafficking an other drug of dependence, 8.7% were also sentenced for trafficking amphetamines, 6.1% for cannabis, 5.5% for ecstasy and 3.2% for heroin. 0 90th Percentile 75th Percentile Median 25th Percentile 10th Percentile People sentenced for trafficking heroin were far less likely to be sentenced for other forms of other drug trafficking at the same time. A total of 1.9% were also sentenced for trafficking an other drug, 1.8% for cannabis, 1.3% for amphetamines and 0.1% for ecstasy. Individuals sentenced for trafficking cannabis were also not commonly sentenced for other types of trafficking, with 4.0% sentenced for amphetamines, 1.9% for other, 1.8% for ecstasy and 0.2% for heroin. Figure 8: The percentage of people sentenced for each trafficking a drug of dependence category by co-occurring drug trafficking categories, to Percentage 25.0% 20.0% 15.0% 10.0% 5.0% 0.0%
7 Trafficking drugs February 2009 Barry Woodhouse 7 Endnotes 1 See Sentencing Snapshots No. 68 to No. 71. These Snapshots cover the offences of trafficking amphetamines, trafficking cannabis, trafficking heroin and trafficking ecstasy. 2 The data analysed in this report are obtained from quarterly unit record extracts provided to the Sentencing Advisory Council by Courtlink (Department of Justice (Vic)). While every effort is made to ensure that the analyses presented in this report are accurate, the data are subject to revision. 3 The other drug of dependence category arises primarily from the type of drug not being specified on the charge sheet when being entered into the Courtlink database. It also includes trafficking of a number of other less common proscribed substances such as cocaine. 4 Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 (Vic) s 71AC. 5 The value of a penalty unit changes each year and can be found in the Victorian Government Gazette and on the Office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel website at <www.ocpc.vic.gov.au>. During the period to , the value of the penalty unit increased from $ to $ Trafficking amphetamines offences are identified by using the charge descriptions of traffick amphetamine, traffick methylamphetamine and traffick dimethylamphetamine. Trafficking cannabis offences are identified by using the charge descriptions of traffick cannabis and traffick tetrahyracannibanol. Trafficking heroin offences are identified by using the charge descriptions of traffick heroin. Trafficking ecstasy offences are identified by using the charge descriptions of traffick ecstasy, traffick ecstasy (MDMA) and traffick ecstasy (MDA). These offences are subject to the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 (Vic) s 71AC. 7 Under section 113 of the Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic) this general maximum term is prescribed for indictable offences triable summarily. Though section 113 does not specifically state the maximum number of penalty units that can be imposed for an indictable offence triable summarily, section 109(3)(a) sets the proportion between maximum term of imprisonment and the maximum fine. 8 This figure excludes people sentenced for trafficking a commercial quantity of a drug of dependence and people sentenced for trafficking a large commercial quantity of a drug of dependence. 9 The age was unknown for 8 men and one woman sentenced for trafficking a drug of dependence (0.2% of the total). These people were excluded from all age analyses in this report. 10 Community-based orders will have conditions attached, which in the case of sentences for trafficking a drug of dependence may involve a drug awareness program, treatment or counselling. Data on the conditions attached to each sentence were not available at the time of publication. 11 The criminal justice diversion program provides offenders with the opportunity to be diverted from the normal criminal process. If an offender acknowledges responsibility for the offence(s) and undertakes prescribed conditions, the offender will avoid the risk of a finding of guilt being made against them. The program can only be recommended if the offence is triable summarily, the defendant admits the facts, there is sufficient evidence to gain a conviction and a diversion is appropriate in the circumstances. The over-riding consideration is that diversion be appropriate in the circumstances. The existence of prior convictions does not disqualify an offender from this program but is a fact to be considered in determining appropriateness. Either the defence or the prosecution may request a disposition of a criminal justice diversion plan, however the plan cannot commence without the consent of the prosecution. 12 Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic) ss 7, 8. In exercising this discretion, the court must have regard to all the circumstances of the case, including the nature of the offence, the character and past history of the offender and the impact of the recording of a conviction on the offender s economic or social well being or on his or her employment prospects (Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic) s 8(1)). 13 Only those individuals who had a conviction recorded against the principal proven offence in the case are counted. Information on conviction is not available for sentences imposed in and Sentences above the 2 year maximum that can be imposed by the Magistrates Court are the result of aggregate sentences. 15 was excluded from the analysis as only 19 people were sentenced to a term of imprisonment by the Magistrates Court during the four-year period.
8 Statistical Reports Published by the Sentencing Advisory Council: Sentencing Outcomes for Possession of Drugs in the Magistrates Court of Victoria This report looks at sentencing outcomes imposed for five different types of possession of drugs offences in the Magistrates Court of Victoria between and The Criminal Justice Diversion Program in Victoria: A Statistical Profile This profile presents previously unpublished statistics on the use of the Criminal Justice Diversion Plan disposition in the Magistrates Court of Victoria between July 2006 and June Sentencing Outcomes for Theft in the Magistrates Court in Victoria This report provides an overview of the sentencing outcomes imposed for five different types of theft in the Magistrates Court in Victoria between and Community Sentences in Victoria: A Statistical Profile This report presents an analysis of community sentences imposed in Victorian courts and commenced in the financial year. The two community sentences examined are intensive correction orders and community-based orders. Homicide in Victoria: Offenders, Victims and Sentencing This report shows how sentencing outcomes for homicide vary on the basis of characteristics of the incident, the offender and the victim. Suspended Sentences in Victoria: A Statistical Profile This report presents an analysis of suspended sentences imposed in the Magistrates Court and higher courts from to Victoria s Prison Population: 2001 to 2006 This paper examines trends in factors associated with Victoria s rising prison population between 2001 and All Sentencing Advisory Council Publications are available at: Authored by Barry Woodhouse, Data Analyst, Sentencing Advisory Council. Published by the Sentencing Advisory Council, Melbourne Victoria Australia. Copyright State of Victoria, Sentencing Advisory Council, February No part of this publication may be reproduced by any process except in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). ISBN: (Print) (PDF) Authorised by Sentencing Advisory Council, Level 4, 436 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne. Printed by BigPrint, 50 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne.
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