Sentencing Trends for Theft in the Higher Courts of Victoria 2007-08 to 2011-12

Sentencing Snapshot 137
Date of Publication: 
14 March 2013

Sentencing Snapshot no. 137 describes sentencing outcomes for the offence of theft in the County and Supreme Courts of Victoria between 2007-08 and 2011-12.

The most recent Sentencing Snapshot for this offence is Snapshot no. 227.

You can also find statistics for this offence on SACStat.

Authored and published by the Sentencing Advisory Council
© Copyright State of Victoria, Sentencing Advisory Council, 2013

Introduction

This Sentencing Snapshot describes sentencing outcomes[1] for the offence of theft and details the age and gender[2] of people sentenced for this offence in the County and Supreme Courts of Victoria between 2007–08 and 2011–12.[3] Except where otherwise noted, the data represent sentences imposed at first instance.

A person who dishonestly appropriates any property belonging to another person with the intention of permanently depriving that person of the property is guilty of theft.[4]

Theft is an indictable offence that carries a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment[5] and/or a fine of 1,200 penalty units.[6] Indictable offences are more serious offences triable before a judge and jury in the County or Supreme Court. Theft can also be tried summarily by the Magistrates’ Court if the property involved meets certain criteria,[7] the Magistrates’ Court considers it appropriate and the defendant consents.[8]

Theft was the principal offence[9] in 2.2% of cases sentenced in the higher courts between 2007–08 and 2011–12.

People sentenced

From 2007–08 to 2011–12, 220 people were sentenced in the higher courts for a principal offence of theft. These people are the focus of this Snapshot. However an additional 1,284 people were sentenced in cases that involved theft but where some other offence was the principle offence. In total 1,504 people were sentenced in the higher courts for 3,684 charges of theft.

Figure 1 shows that over the five years depicted, the majority of those sentenced were men (70.9% or 156 of the 220 people), including 25 of the 36 people sentenced in 2011–12.

Figure 1: The number of people sentenced for theft by gender, 2007–08 to 2011–12

  Gender    
Financial year Male Female Total
2007–08 28 15 43
2008–09 33 15 48
2009–10 33 15 48
2010–11 37 8 45
2011–12 25 11 36
Total 156 64 220

Sentence types and trends

Figure 2 shows the total number of people sentenced for theft and the number who received an immediate custodial sentence. An immediate custodial sentence is one that involves at least some element of immediate (as opposed to wholly suspended) imprisonment or detention.[10] Over the five-year period, 66% of people were given an immediate custodial sentence. This peaked at 81% (29 of 36) in 2011–12 after a low of 56% (25 of 45) in 2010–11.

Figure 2: The number of people sentenced for theft and the number who received an immediate custodial sentence, 2007–08 to 2011–12

  Sentence type  
Financial year Custodial Non-custodial Total
2007–08 26 17 43
2008–09 34 14 48
2009 –10 32 16 48
2010 –11 25 20 45
2011 –12 29 7 36
Total 146 74 220

Table 1 shows the number of people sentenced for theft from 2007–08 to 2011–12 by the types of sentences imposed.

Over the five-year period, half of the people sentenced for theft received a period of imprisonment (50% or 111 of 220 people), while 20% received a wholly suspended[11] sentence of imprisonment and 14% received a partially suspended sentence of imprisonment.

The number of people given a sentence of imprisonment was lowest during both 2007–08 and 2010–11 (19 people each) and highest during 2008–09 (25 people). The percentage of people given a sentence of imprisonment was lowest during 2010–11 (19 of 45 people, or 42%) and highest during 2011–12 (24 of 36 people, or 67%).

The number and percentage of people given a wholly suspended sentence were lowest during 2011–12 (2 of 36 people, or 6%) and highest during 2010–11 (13 of 45 people, or 29%). The number and percentage of people given a partially suspended sentence were lowest during 2011–12 (3 of 36 people, or 8%) and highest during both 2008–09 and 2009–10 (8 of 48 people, or 17%).

Table 1: The number and percentage of people sentenced for theft by sentence type, 2007–08 to 2011–12

Sentence type 2007–08 2008–09 2009–10 2010–11 2011–12 Total
Imprisonment 19 (44%) 25 (52%) 24 (50%) 19 (42%) 24 (67%) 111 (50%)
Wholly suspended sentence 10 (23%) 8 (17%) 12 (25%) 13 (29%) 2 (6%) 45 (20%)
Partially suspended sentence 6 (14%) 8 (17%) 8 (17%) 6 (13%) 3 (8%) 31 (14%)
Fine 2 (5%) 2 (4%) 4 (8%) 2 (4%) 3 (8%) 13 (6%)
Community based order 1 (2%) 2 (4%) 0 (–) 3 (7%) 1 (3%) 7 (3%)
Youth justice centre order 0 (–) 1 (2%) 0 (–) 0 (–) 1 (3%) 2 (<1%)
Intensive correction order 1 (2%) 0 (–) 0 (–) 1 (2%) 0 (–) 2 (<1%)
Partially suspended sentence with recognizance release order (Cth) 0 (–) 0 (–) 0 (–) 0 (–) 1 (3%) 1 (<1%)
Non custodial supervision order 0 (–) 0 (–) 0 (–) 0 (–) 1 (3%) 1 (<1%)
Mix (imprisonment and community-based order) 1 (2%) 0 (–) 0 (–) 0 (–) 0 (–) 1 (<1%)
Mix (community-based order and fine) 1 (2%) 0 (–) 0 (–) 0 (–) 0 (–) 1 (<1%)
Good behaviour bond 0 (–) 1 (2%) 0 (–) 0 (–) 0 (–) 1 (<1%)
Aggregate wholly suspended sentence 1 (2%) 0 (–) 0 (–) 0 (–) 0 (–) 1 (<1%)
Aggregate fine 0 (–) 1 (2%) 0 (–) 0 (–) 0 (–) 1 (<1%)
Adjourned undertaking without conviction 0 (–) 0 (–) 0 (–) 1 (2%) 0 (–) 1 (<1%)
Adjourned undertaking with conviction 1 (2%) 0 (–) 0 (–) 0 (–) 0 (–) 1 (<1%)
People sentenced 43 48 48 45 36 220

Age and gender of people sentenced

Figure 3 shows the gender of people sentenced for theft grouped by their age[12] between 2007–08 and 2011–12. The average age of people sentenced for theft was 39 years and 11 months. Women sentenced over this period were much older than men (an average age of 44 years and 1 month for women compared with 38 years and 2 months for men). There were no juveniles sentenced over this period.[13]

Figure 3: The number of people sentenced for theft by gender and age, 2007–08 to 2011–12

  Gender    
Age group (years) Female Male Total
18 to 19 1 5 6
20 to 24 2 14 16
25 to 29 4 16 20
30 to 34 9 36 45
35 to 39 5 20 25
40 to 44 11 21 32
45 to 49 9 16 25
50 to 54 12 10 22
55 to 59 3 13 16
60 or older 8 5 13
Total 64 156 220

Sentence types by gender

Table 2 shows the types of sentences imposed for theft grouped by gender. As shown, a higher percentage of men received a fine (7.7% compared with 1.6% of women). Conversely, a higher percentage of women received a partially suspended sentence of imprisonment (18.8% compared with 12.2% of men) or a period of imprisonment (53.1% compared with 49.4%).

Table 2: The number and percentage of people sentenced for theft by sentence type and gender, 2007–08 to 2011–12

Sentence type Male Female
Imprisonment 77 (49%) 34 (53%)
Wholly suspended sentence 31 (20%) 14 (22%)
Partially suspended sentence 19 (12%) 12 (19%)
Fine 12 (8%) 1 (2%)
Community-based order 6 (4%) 1 (2%)
Youth justice centre order 2 (1%) 0 (–)
Intensive correction order 2 (1%) 0 (–)
Partially suspended sentence with recognizance release order (Cth) 1 (<1%) 0 (–)
Non custodial supervision order 1 (<1%) 0 (–)
Mix (imprisonment and community-based order) 1 (<1%) 0 (–)
Mix (community-based order and fine) 1 (<1%) 0 (–)
Good behaviour bond 0 (–) 1 (2%)
Aggregate wholly suspended sentence 1 (<1%) 0 (–)
Aggregate fine 0 (–) 1 (2%)
Adjourned undertaking without conviction 1 (<1%) 0 (–)
Adjourned undertaking with conviction 1 (<1%) 0 (–)
People sentenced 156 64

Sentence types by age

As shown in Table 2, the four most common sentence types were imprisonment, wholly suspended sentences of imprisonment, partially suspended sentences of imprisonment and fines. The following analysis examines these sentence types by the offender’s age group.

Imprisonment

As shown in Figure 4, sentences of imprisonment were most likely to be given to people aged 35–39 years (68% or 17 of the 25 people in this age group).

Conversely, sentences of imprisonment were least common for those aged 40–44 years (44% or 14 of the 32 people in this age group).

Figure 4: The percentage of people who received a period of imprisonment for theft by age group, 2007–08 to 2011–12

Age group (years) Percentage
Younger than 35 49.4
35 to 39 68.0
40 to 44 43.8
45 to 49 48.0
50 to 54 54.5
55 or older 44.8

Wholly suspended sentences of imprisonment

As shown in Figure 5, wholly suspended sentences of imprisonment were most likely to be given to people aged 45–49 years (40% or 10 of the 25 people in this age group).

Conversely, wholly suspended sentences of imprisonment were least common for those aged 35–39 years (12% or 3 of the 25 people in this age group).

Figure 5: The percentage of people who received a wholly suspended sentence of imprisonment for theft by age group, 2007–08 to 2011–12

Age group (years) Percentage
Younger than 35 19.5
35 to 39 12.0
40 to 44 18.8
45 to 49 40.0
50 to 54 18.2
55 or older 17.2

Partially suspended sentences of imprisonment

As shown in Figure 6, partially suspended sentences of imprisonment were most likely to be given to people aged 40–44 years (28% or 9 of the 32 people in this age group).

Conversely, partially suspended sentences of imprisonment were least common for those aged 45–49 years (4% or 1 of the 25 people in this age group).

Figure 6: The percentage of people who received a partially suspended sentence of imprisonment for theft by age group, 2007–08 to 2011–12

Age group (years) Percentage
Younger than 35 5.7
35 to 39 20.0
40 to 44 28.1
45 to 49 4.0
50 to 54 22.7
55 or older 20.7

Fines

As shown in Figure 7 fines were most likely to be given to people aged under 35 years (10% or 9 of the 87 people in this age group).

Conversely, fines were not given to anyone in the 35 to 39 or the 50 to 54 year age group.

Figure 7: The percentage of people who received a fine for theft by age group, 2007–08 to 2011–12

Age group (years) Percentage
Younger than 35 10.3
35 to 39 0.0
40 to 44 3.1
45 to 49 4.0
50 to 54 0.0
55 or older 6.9

Principal and total effective sentences

Two methods for describing sentence types and lengths are examined in this section. One relates to the principal sentence and examines sentences for the offence at a charge level. The other relates to the total effective sentence and examines sentences for the offence at a case level.

The principal sentence is the individual sentence imposed for the charge that is the principal offence.[14]

The total effective sentence in a case with a single charge is the principal sentence. The total effective sentence in a case with multiple charges is the sentence that results from the court ordering the individual sentences for each charge to be served concurrently (at the same time) or wholly or partially cumulatively (one after the other).

In many cases, the total effective sentence imposed on a person will be longer than individual principal sentences. Principal sentences for theft must be considered in this broader context. The following sections analyse the use of imprisonment for the offence of theft from 2007–08 to 2011–12.

Principal sentence of imprisonment

A total of 112 people received a principal sentence of imprisonment for theft between 2007–08 and 2011–12 Figure 8 shows these people by the length of their imprisonment term. Imprisonment terms ranged from 7 days to 6 years, while the median length of imprisonment was 2 years (meaning that half of the imprisonment terms were shorter than 2 years and half were longer). The most common length of imprisonment imposed was 1 year to less than 2 years (33 people).

Figure 8: The number of people sentenced to imprisonment for theft by length of imprisonment term, 2007–08 to 2011–12

Imprisonment length Number
Less than 3 months 3
3 to less than 6 months 6
6 to less than 9 months 5
9 to less than 12 months 5
1 to less than 2 years 33
2 to less than 3 years 32
3 to less than 4 years 15
4 to less than 5 years 10
5 to less than 6 years 1
6 to less than 7 years 2

Expanding the analysis from principal sentences of imprisonment to all charges that received imprisonment, there were 2,557 charges of theft sentenced to imprisonment between 2007–08 and 2011–12. Imprisonment lengths for theft ranged from 1 day to 6 years while the median was 6 months and the most common length was less than 1 year (1,624 of 2,557 charges, or 63.5%).

Returning to principal sentences of imprisonment, as shown in Figure 9, the average length of imprisonment term imposed on people sentenced for theft ranged from 1 year and 8 months in 2007–08 to 2 years and 6 months in 2009–10.

Figure 9: The average length of imprisonment term imposed on people sentenced for theft, 2007–08 to 2011–12

Financial year Average length of imprisonment
2007-08 1 year, 8 months
2008 –09 1 year, 9 months
2009 –10 2 years, 6 months
2010 –11 2 years, 3 months
2011 –12 2 years

From 2007–08 to 2011–12, the majority of people who received a term of imprisonment for theft were men (78 people or 69.6%). As shown in Figure 10, over the five-year period, the average imprisonment length for men ranged from 1 year and 9 months in 2008–09 to 2 years and 7 months in 2009–10. The average imprisonment length for women was shorter, ranging from 1 year and 6 months in 2007–08 and 2008–09 to 2 years and 6 months in 2010–11.

Figure 10: The average period of imprisonment imposed on people sentenced for theft by gender, 2007–08 to 2011–12

  Gender
Financial year Male Female
2007 –08 1 year, 10 months 1 year, 6 months
2008 –09 1 year, 9 months 1 year, 6 months
2009 –10 2 years, 7 months 2 years, 4 months
2010 –11 2 years, 2 months 2 years, 6 months
2011 –12 2 years, 1 month 1 year, 10 months

Other offences finalised at the same hearing

Often people prosecuted for theft face multiple charges, which are finalised at the same hearing. This section looks at the range of offences for which offenders have been sentenced at the same time as being sentenced for the principal offence of theft.

Figure 11 shows the number of people sentenced for the principal offence of theft by the total number of offences for which sentences were set. The number of sentenced offences per person ranged from 1 to 85, while the median was 4 offences. There were 41 people (18.6%) sentenced for the single offence of theft. The average number of offences per person sentenced for theft was 6.96.

Figure 11: The number of people sentenced for the principal offence of theft by the number of sentenced offences per person, 2007–08 to 2011–12

Number of offences Number of people
1 41
2 46
3 22
4 20
5 to 9 56
10 to 19 18
20 to 49 13
50 or more 4

While Figure 11 presents the number of sentenced offences for those sentenced for theft, Table 3 shows what the accompanying offences were. It shows the number and percentage of people sentenced for the 10 most common offences. The last column sets out the average number of offences sentenced per person. For example, 18 of the total 220 people (8.2%) also received sentences for burglary. On average, they were sentenced for 4.94 counts of burglary.

Table 3: The number and percentage of people sentenced for the principal offence of theft by the most common offences that were sentenced and the average number of those offences that were sentenced, 2007–08 to 2011–12

  Offence No. % Avg.
1 Theft 220 100.0 4.99
2 Burglary 18 8.2 4.94
3 Obtaining property by deception 17 7.7 3.29
4 Obtaining financial advantage by deception 11 5.0 6.55
5 Attempted theft 11 5.0 1.64
6 Handling stolen goods 9 4.1 1.56
7 Possess a drug of dependence 9 4.1 1.33
8 Falsify any document for any accounting purpose 8 3.6 4.63
9 Intentionally destroy/damage property (criminal damage) 7 3.2 4.14
10 Armed robbery 6 2.7 1.67
People sentenced 220 100.0 6.96

Total effective sentence of imprisonment

There were 108 people given a total effective sentence of imprisonment.[15] Figure 12 shows the number of people sentenced to imprisonment for theft between 2007–08 and 2011–12 by length of total effective sentence. The length of total effective sentences ranged from 7 days to 10 years and 6 months, while the median total effective length of imprisonment was 3 years (meaning that half of the total effective sentence lengths were below 3 years and half were above).

The two most common total effective imprisonment lengths were 2 years to less than 3 years or 3 years to less than 4 years (25 people each).

Figure 12: The number of people sentenced to imprisonment for theft by length of total effective imprisonment term, 2007–08 to 2011–12

Total effective imprisonment length Number of people
Less than 3 months 1
3 to less than 6 months 4
6 to less than 9 months 1
9 to less than 12 months 2
1 to less than 2 years 15
2 to less than 3 years 25
3 to less than 4 years 25
4 to less than 5 years 16
5 to less than 6 years 8
6 to less than 7 years 6
7 to less than 8 years 2
8 to less than 9 years 2
9 to less than 10 years 0
10 to less than 11 years 1

Non-parole period

When a person is sentenced to a term of immediate imprisonment of one year or more, the court has the discretion to fix a non-parole period. Where a non-parole period is fixed, the person must serve that period before becoming eligible for parole. Where no non-parole period is set by the court, the person must serve the entirety of the imprisonment term.

Under section 11(4) of the Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic), if a court sentences an offender to imprisonment in respect of more than one offence, the non-parole period set by the court must be in respect of the total effective sentence of imprisonment that the offender is liable to serve under all the sentences imposed. In many cases, the non-parole period will be longer than the individual principal sentence for theft. Sentences and non-parole periods must be considered in this broader context.

Of the 108 people who were sentenced to imprisonment for theft, 100 were eligible to have a non-parole period fixed.[16] Of these people, 96 were given a non-parole period (96%). Figure 13 shows the number of people sentenced to imprisonment for theft between 2007–08 and 2011–12 by length of non-parole period. Non-parole periods ranged from 6 months to 5 years and 9 months, while the median length of the non-parole period was 1 year and 9 months (meaning that half of the non-parole periods were below 1 year and 9 months and half were above).

The most common non-parole period imposed was 1 year to less than 2 years (35 people).

Figure 13: The number of people sentenced to imprisonment for theft by length of non-parole period, 2007–08 to 2011–12

Non-parole period Number of people
Less than 3 months 0
3 to less than 6 months 0
6 to less than 9 months 9
9 to less than 12 months 7
1 to less than 2 years 35
2 to less than 3 years 25
3 to less than 4 years 10
4 to less than 5 years 6
5 to less than 6 years 4
No non-parole period 12

Total effective sentences of imprisonment and non-parole periods

Figures 14, 15 and 16 present the average length of total effective sentences of imprisonment compared with the average length of non-parole periods for all people (Figure 14), for men (Figure 15) and for women (Figure 16) from 2007–08 to 2011–12.

From 2007–08 to 2011–12, the average length of total effective sentences for all people ranged from 2 years and 11 months in 2007–08 and 2011–12 to 3 years and 9 months in 2009–10. Over the same period, the average length of non-parole periods ranged from 1 year and 8 months in 2007–08 to 2 years and 3 months in 2010–11.

Figure 14: The average total effective sentence and the average non-parole period imposed on people sentenced to imprisonment for theft, 2007–08 to 2011–12

Financial year Total effective sentence length Non-parole period
2007 –08 2 years, 11 months 1 year, 8 months
2008 –09 3 years 1 year, 11 months
2009 –10 3 years, 9 months 2 years, 2 months
2010 –11 3 years, 7 months 2 years, 3 months
2011 –12 2 years, 11 months 1 year, 9 months

From 2007–08 to 2011–12, the average length of total effective sentences for men ranged from 2 years and 11 months in 2011–12 to 3 years and 10 months in 2009–10 and 2010–11. Over the same period, the average length of non-parole periods for men ranged from 1 year and 11 months in 2011–12 to 2 years and 6 months in 2010–11.

Figure 15: The average total effective sentence and the average non-parole period imposed on men sentenced to imprisonment for theft, 2007–08 to 2011–12

Financial year Total effective sentence length Non-parole period
2007 –08 3 years, 3 months 2 years, 2 months
2008 –09 3 years, 1 month 2 years, 1 month
2009 –10 3 years, 10 months 2 years, 4 months
2010 –11 3 years, 10 months 2 years, 6 months
2011 –12 2 years, 11 months 1 year, 11 months

The average length of total effective sentences for women ranged from 2 years and 5 months in 2007–08 to 3 years and 5 months in 2009–10. Over the same period, the average length of non-parole periods for women ranged from 1 year and 1 month in 2007–08 to 1 year and 10 months in 2009–10.

Figure 16: The average total effective sentence and the average non-parole period imposed on women sentenced to imprisonment for theft, 2007–08 to 2011–12

Financial year Total effective sentence length Non-parole period
2007 –08 2 years, 5 months 1 year, 1 month
2008 –09 2 years, 11 months 1 year, 7 months
2009 –10 3 years, 5 months 1 year, 10 months
2010 –11 2 years, 11 months 1 year, 9 months
2011 –12 2 years, 11 months 1 year, 6 months

Total effective sentence of imprisonment by non-parole period

While Figures 12 and 13 present the lengths of the total effective sentences and non-parole periods separately, Figure 17 combines the two methods of describing sentence lengths in the one diagram. It shows the total effective sentence and non-parole period for theft for each individual person.

The centre of each ‘bubble’ on the chart represents a combination of imprisonment length and non-parole period, while the size of the bubble reflects the number of people who received that particular combination. Sentence lengths and non-parole periods that are longer than one year are rounded down to the nearest year of imprisonment, while sentence lengths and non-parole periods of less than one year are grouped into the ‘<1 year’ category. For example, a sentence length of 2 years and 6 months would be included as a sentence length of 2 years for the purposes of Figure 17.

As shown, the most common combination of imprisonment length and non-parole period imposed was 2 years with a non-parole period of 1 year (19 people – as represented by the largest bubble on the chart). The length of imprisonment ranged from 7 days with no non-parole period to 10 years and 6 months with a non-parole period of 5 years.

Figure 17: The number of people sentenced to imprisonment for theft by the total effective sentence and the non-parole period imposed, 2007–08 to 2011–12

Total effective sentence category Non-parole period category Total
Less than 1 year no non-parole period 8
1 year to less than 2 years no non-parole period 2
1 year to less than 2 years 6 months to less than 9 months 6
1 year to less than 2 years 9 months to less than 12 months 5
1 year to less than 2 years 1 year to less than 2 years 2
2 years to less than 3 years no non-parole period 2
2 years to less than 3 years 6 months to less than 9 months 3
2 years to less than 3 years 9 months to less than 12 months 1
2 years to less than 3 years 1 year to less than 2 years 19
3 years to less than 4 years 9 months to less than 12 months 1
3 years to less than 4 years 1 year to less than 2 years 14
3 years to less than 4 years 2 years to less than 3 years 9
3 years to less than 4 years 3 years to less than 4 years 1
4 years to less than 5 years 2 years to less than 3 years 14
4 years to less than 5 years 3 years to less than 4 years 2
5 years to less than 6 years 2 years to less than 3 years 2
5 years to less than 6 years 3 years to less than 4 years 6
6 years to less than 7 years 3 years to less than 4 years 1
6 years to less than 7 years 4 years to less than 5 years 5
7 years to less than 8 years 4 years to less than 5 years 1
7 years to less than 8 years 5 years to less than 6 years 1
8 years to less than 9 years 5 years to less than 6 years 2
10 years to less than 11 years 5 years to less than 6 years 1
Total number of people   108

Note: No NPP refers to no non-parole period.

Suspended sentences of imprisonment

There were 80 people given a suspended sentence of imprisonment as their total effective sentence. Of these, 46 people had their prison sentence wholly suspended and 34 received a partially suspended sentence of imprisonment. Figure 18 shows the number of people with a suspended sentence of imprisonment as their total effective sentence by the suspended sentence type and length of sentence. The green ‘bubbles’ to the left of the vertical axis show the lengths of the wholly suspended sentences, while the grey bubbles to the right of the vertical axis show the combination of total imprisonment length and the suspended period for those sentenced to a partially suspended sentence. The size of the bubble reflects the number of people who received either the wholly or the partially suspended prison term. Imprisonment lengths and suspended periods that end part way through a month are rounded down to the nearest complete month. For example, a wholly suspended sentence of 6 months and 12 days would be included as a sentence length of 6 months for the purposes of Figure 18.

Wholly suspended sentence lengths ranged from 4 months to 3 years. The most common wholly suspended sentence length was 2 years (13 people – as represented by the largest green bubble on the chart).

Partially suspended sentences ranged from 4 months’ imprisonment with 3 months suspended to 3 years’ imprisonment with 2 years and 6 months suspended. The most common partially suspended sentence combination was 3 years with 2 years suspended (3 people – as represented by the largest grey bubble on the chart).

Figure 18: The number of people given a wholly or partially suspended sentence of imprisonment for theft by sentence type and length, 2007–08 to 2011–12

Wholly suspended sentences
Wholly suspended sentence length (months) No. of people
4 1
6 4
9 3
10 1
12 5
14 1
15 3
16 2
18 2
20 2
22 1
24 13
30 5
33 1
36 2
Partially suspended sentences
Imprisonment sentence length (months) Suspended period (months) No. of people
4 3 1
9 6 1
12 6 2
12 8 2
12 9 1
12.3 9.2 1
14 12 1
15 10 1
18 12 2
18 15 1
20 11 1
20 13.5 1
21 17 1
22 18 1
24 15 1
24 18 1
24 21 1
25 15 1
25 17 1
27 16 1
27 17 1
30 24 1
32 22 1
33 27 1
34 22 1
36 21 2
36 24 3
36 30 1

Fines

This analysis includes all fines that were imposed for cases where theft was the principal offence. Fines were imposed on 25 people.

The fine amount imposed ranged from $100 to $2,733, with a median of $500 (meaning that half of the values fell below $500 and half of the values were above $500).

The average fine amount was $870. The average fine amount imposed against the 2 females was $1,592, much higher than the average fine for the 23 males ($808).

Figure 19: The number of people who received a fine for theft by fine amount, 2007–08 to 2011–12

Fine amount No. of people
$0 to $199 1
$200 to $399 8
$400 to $599 7
$600 to $799 0
$800 to $999 1
$1000 to $1199 1
$1200 to $1399 1
$1400 to $1599 1
$1600 to $1799 0
$1800 to $1999 1
$2000 or more 4

Appeals

A sentence imposed on a person may be appealed[17]by that person or by the Crown. A person sentenced may also appeal against their conviction. All appeals made in relation to people sentenced in the higher courts are determined by the Court of Appeal.

Up to June 2012, one person sentenced for a principal offence of theft in the period 2007–08 to 2011–12 successfully appealed their conviction (the person was acquitted of the offence). The person had received a total effective imprisonment term of 3 years with a non-parole period of 2 years. Thus, the number of people sentenced from 2007–08 to 2011–12 for a principal offence of theft was reduced to 219 people once appeals are considered.

As a result of successful appeals against sentence, the total effective sentence and/or the non-parole period changed for 5 people. All of these appeals were made by the person sentenced and resulted in a sentence reduction. The longest total effective imprisonment term to be reduced was a sentence of 6 years and 6 months’ imprisonment with a non-parole period of 4 years, which decreased to 4 years and 8 months’ imprisonment with a non-parole period of 3 years and 6 months on appeal.

The principal sentence changed for one person as a result of a successful appeal, from an initial sentence of 3 years and 6 months’ imprisonment, to 2 years and 6 months on appeal.

With the original sentencing data revised to incorporate appeal outcomes, the adjusted longest total effective imprisonment term was unchanged at 10 years and 6 months imprisonment while the longest non-parole period was unchanged at 5 years and 9 months.

The adjusted longest principal sentence of imprisonment was unchanged at 6 years.

Summary

Between 2007–08 and 2011–12, 220 people were sentenced for theft in the higher courts. Over this period, the majority of people sentenced were men (71%), while 68% were between the ages of 30 and 54 years.

Around half of the people sentenced for theft received a period of imprisonment (50%), while 20% received a wholly suspended sentence of imprisonment and 14% received a partially suspended sentence of imprisonment.

Men were more likely than women to be given a fine. Conversely, women were more likely to be sentenced to a partially suspended sentence of imprisonment.

Imprisonment was most common for those aged between 35 and 39 years, wholly suspended sentences of imprisonment were more common for those aged between 45 and 49 years and partially suspended sentences of imprisonment were more common for those aged between 40 and 44 years.

Each of the 220 people was sentenced for an average of 6.96 offences, including 4.99 offences of theft. The most common offence finalised in conjunction with theft was burglary (8.2% of all cases). The number and range of offences for which people with a principal offence of theft were sentenced help explain why imprisonment sentence lengths were longer for the total effective sentence than for the principal sentence. The median total effective imprisonment length was 3 years, while the median principal imprisonment length was 2 years.

Total effective imprisonment lengths ranged from 7 days with no non-parole period to 10 years and 6 months with a non-parole period of 5 years. The most common sentence of imprisonment was 2 years with a non-parole period of one year.

The most common partially suspended sentence length was 3 years with 2 years suspended, while the most common wholly suspended sentence length was 2 years.

A small number of people were able to successfully appeal against their sentences. When the results of the appeal outcomes are incorporated into the original sentencing data, the range of total effective imprisonment length and principal imprisonment sentence length was unchanged.

Endnotes

[1] This series of reports includes custodial and non-custodial supervision orders imposed under Part 5 of the Crimes (Mental Impairment and Unfitness to Be Tried) Act 1997 (Vic) as sentencing orders and in the count of people sentenced. These orders are not sentencing orders, as they are imposed in cases where the defendant is not guilty because of mental impairment. However, they are included in this report as they are an important form of disposition of criminal charges.

This Sentencing Snapshot is an update of Sentencing Snapshot no. 106, which described sentencing trends for theft between 2005–06 and 2009–10.

[2] The information source for sentencing outcomes for theft only contains information on age and gender characteristics. No other demographic analysis is possible using this data source.

[3] The source data for the statistical information presented in this Snapshot were provided by the Business Intelligence area of the Courts and Tribunals unit within the Department of Justice (Vic). The Sentencing Advisory Council regularly undertakes extensive quality control measures for current and historical data. While every effort is made to ensure that the data analysed in this report are accurate, the data are subject to revision.

[4] Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) s 72.

[5] Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) s 74.

[6] 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 (link to external site opens in a new window).

[7] Between 1 July 2007 and 11 March 2009, the Magistrates’ Court Act 1989 (Vic) allowed this offence to be heard summarily ‘if the amount or value of the property alleged to have been stolen does not in the judgement of the Court exceed $100,000 or if the property alleged to have been stolen is a motor vehicle’. On 11 March 2009 the power to hear this offence summarily was transferred to Schedule 2 (4.4) of the Criminal Procedure Act 2009 (Vic). There were no significant changes to the type or value of the property that would allow the offence to be heard summarily.

[8] Criminal Procedure Act 2009 (Vic) s 29. Prior to the Criminal Procedure Act 2009 (Vic) coming into effect, section 53 of the Magistrates’ Court Act 1989 (Vic) provided similar powers to allow the Magistrates’ Court to hear this offence summarily.

[9] If a person is sentenced for a case with a single charge, the offence for that charge is the principal offence. If a person is sentenced for more than one charge in a single case, the principal offence is the offence for the charge that attracted the most serious sentence according to the sentencing hierarchy.

[10] Immediate custodial sentence includes imprisonment, partially suspended sentence, youth justice centre order, partially suspended sentence with recognizance release order (Cth) and mix (imprisonment and community-based order).

[11] Theft is not defined as a ‘serious’ or a ‘significant’ offence for the purposes of giving a wholly suspended sentence under section 27(2B) of the Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic).

[12] Age is as at the time of sentencing.

[13] Some defendants who were under the age of 18 at the time of committing the alleged offence and who were not 19 years or older at the time proceedings commenced may have been dealt with in the Children’s Court of Victoria.

[14] Refer to endnote 9.

[15] Of the 112 people who were given a principal sentence of imprisonment, 108 were also given a total effective sentence of imprisonment. There were 3 people who were given imprisonment as the principal sentence for theft and a partially suspended sentence as a total effective sentence, and one person who was given imprisonment as the principal sentence and a wholly suspended sentence as the total effective sentence.

[16] A total of 8 people were not eligible for parole because they were given a total effective sentence length of less than 1 year.

[17] Appeals data were collected by the Sentencing Advisory Council from transcripts of sentencing remarks of criminal appeals on the Australasian Legal Information Institute’s website (link to external site opens in a new window).