New trends have been revealed in the latest report to be published by the state’s Sentencing Advisory Council entitled Sentencing Spotlight on Breach of Bail Offences. In it, the council examined outcomes for offences over an 11 year period and analysed certain offender characteristics based on the emergent trends.
One of the more notable trends identified in the report was that since 2008, the number of people that Queensland’s courts sentenced for breach of bail has increased year on year. Between 1 July 2005 and 30 June 2016 that number more than doubled.
Advisory council chair Professor Elena Marchetti said the reasons behind the data narrative were worth exploring further.
“While the data shows the incidence of breach of bail is rising, we are interested in looking beyond the data to find out why this is occurring,” Professor Marchetti said.
“For instance, could some of the breaches be attributed to a lack of understanding of sentencing conditions?”
The council, which exists to educate the public about the justice process, also uses the report to explain that bail can be granted by police or a court. Specifically, the report examined circumstances where an offender who had been granted bail breached a condition of that order (s 29 of the Bail Act) or failed to appear in accordance with their bail undertaking (s 33 of the Bail Act).
Other findings showed that where breach of bail was a person’s most serious offence, associated crimes included resisting the police, offensive behaviour, possessing illicit drugs or breaching a violence order.
“A total of 107,779 offenders were sentenced for breach of bail offences. For 59.2 per cent of those offenders, their breach of bail offence was their most serious offence within their court event,” the report said.
“The remaining 40.8 per cent of offenders were sentenced for breach of bail offence/s, however this was not their most serious offence.”
Queensland’s ‘average offender’ was a 30-year-old man, with 79.5 per cent of offenders who appeared before the courts male.
In the 11-year period, four out of five offenders received a non-custodial penalty; usually in the form of a reprimand for young offenders or a fine for adults. The average fine for a penalty in Queensland during this period was $378.
Professor Marchetti noted that the general presumption in favour of bail was the law in Queensland but that there were reasonable exceptions.
“These are very important exceptions and include when a defendant has been charged with murder, or the court believes they will commit further offences, tamper with witnesses or evidence, or endanger public safety,” Professor Marchetti said.