Sentencing Trends for Cultivating a Non-Commercial Quantity of Narcotic Plants in the Higher Courts of Victoria 2008-09 to 2012-13

Sentencing Snapshot 164
Date of Publication: 
29 August 2014

Sentencing Snapshot no. 164 describes sentencing outcomes for the offence of cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants in the County and Supreme Courts of Victoria between 2008–09 and 2012–13.

The most recent Sentencing Snapshot for this offence is Snapshot no. 221.

You can also access statistics for this offence on SACStat.

Authored and published by the Sentencing Advisory Council
© Copyright State of Victoria, Sentencing Advisory Council, 2014

Introduction

This Sentencing Snapshot describes sentencing outcomes[1] for the offence of cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants and details the age and gender[2] of people sentenced for this offence in the County and Supreme Courts of Victoria between 2008–09 and 2012–13.[3] Except where otherwise noted, the data represent sentences imposed at first instance.

The Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 (Vic) provides a set of offences in relation to the cultivation of a narcotic plant that distinguishes between large commercial, commercial, and less than commercial quantities of the illegal plant.[4]

A person who sows the seed of a narcotic plant or grows, tends, or nurtures a narcotic plant without being authorised or licensed to do so is guilty of cultivation of a narcotic plant.[5]  The maximum penalties that apply vary depending on the quantity of the plant involved, as well as the purpose for which the plant was cultivated.

Cultivation of a narcotic plant in a non-commercial quantity is an indictable offence that carries a maximum penalty of 15 years’ imprisonment[6] and/or a fine of up to 1,800 penalty units.[7]  Indictable offences are more serious offences triable before a judge and jury in the County or Supreme Court. Cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants can also be heard summarily in the Magistrates’ Court provided that the offending involves a quantity of plants below a certain amount,[8] the Magistrates’ Court considers it appropriate, and the defendant consents.[9]

In cases where the judge (or magistrate on a summary hearing) is satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the plant was not cultivated for any purpose related to trafficking, the maximum penalty is reduced to 1 year’s imprisonment or 20 penalty units.[10]

Cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants was the principal offence[11] in 1.2% of cases sentenced in the higher courts between 2008–09 and 2012–13.

People Sentenced

From 2008–09 to 2012–13, 116 people were sentenced in the higher courts for a principal offence of cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants. These people are the focus of this Snapshot. Sufficient information was not available to determine the number of people who were sentenced for cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants in instances where another offence was the principal offence.

Figure 1 shows the number of people sentenced for the principal offence of cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants by gender. Over the five years depicted, the majority of people sentenced were men (81.0% or 94 of the 116 people), including 19 of the 27 people sentenced in 2012–13.

Figure 1: The number of people sentenced for cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants by gender, 2008–09 to 2012–13

  Gender    
Financial year Male Female Total persons
2008–09 12 1 13
2009–10 15 1 16
2010–11 28 7 35
2011–12 20 5 25
2012–13 19 8 27
Total 94 22 116

Sentence Types and Trends

Figure 2 shows the total number of people sentenced for cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants 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.[12]  Over the five-year period, 41% of people were given an immediate custodial sentence. This peaked at 62% (8 of 13 people) in 2008–09 followed by a low of 19% (3 of 16 people) in 2009–10.

Table 1 shows the number of people sentenced for cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants from 2008–09 to 2012–13 by the types of sentences imposed.

Figure 2: The number of people sentenced for cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants and the number who received an immediate custodial sentence, 2008–09 to 2012–13

Financial year Immediate custodial sentence Non-custodial sentence People sentenced
2008–09 8 5 13
2009–10 3 13 16
2010–11 10 25 35
2011–12 11 14 25
2012–13 16 11 27
Total 48 68 116

Over the five-year period, nearly 40% of the people sentenced for cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants received a wholly suspended[13] sentence (39% or 45 of 116 people), while 22% received a partially suspended sentence and 20% received imprisonment.

The number of people receiving a wholly suspended sentence of imprisonment was lowest during 2008–09 (3 people) and highest during 2010–11 (16 people). The percentage receiving a wholly suspended sentence was lowest during 2012–13 (6 of 27 people or 22%) and highest during 2009–10 (12 of 16 people or 75%).

The number and percentage of people receiving a partially suspended sentence were lowest during 2009–10 (2 of 16 people or 13%) and highest during 2011–12 (8 of 25 people or 32%).

The number and percentage of people receiving imprisonment were lowest during 2009–10 (1 of 16 people or 6%) and highest during 2012–13 (10 of 27 people or 37%).

Table 1: The number and percentage of people sentenced for cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants by sentence type, 2008–09 to 2012–13

Sentence type 2008–09 2009–10 2010–11 2011–12 2012–13 Total
Wholly suspended sentence 3 (23%) 12 (75%) 16 (46%) 8 (32%) 6 (22%) 45 (39%)
Partially suspended sentence 4 (31%) 2 (13%) 5 (14%) 8 (32%) 6 (22%) 25 (22%)
Imprisonment 4 (31%) 1 (6%) 5 (14%) 3 (12%) 10 (37%) 23 (20%)
Fine 1 (8%) 1 (6%) 4 (11%) 1 (4%) 0 (–) 7 (6%)
Community-based order 0 (–) 0 (–) 4 (11%) 0 (–) 0 (–) 4 (3%)
Community correction order 0 (–) 0 (–) 0 (–) 1 (4%) 3 (11%) 4 (3%)
Intensive correction order 1 (8%) 0 (–) 0 (–) 2 (8%) 0 (–) 3 (3%)
Adjourned undertaking without conviction 0 (–) 0 (–) 0 (–) 1 (4%) 1 (4%) 2 (2%)
Mix (intensive correction order and fine) 0 (–) 0 (–) 0 (–) 1 (4%) 0 (–) 1 (<1%)
Aggregate wholly suspended sentence 0 (–) 0 (–) 0 (–) 0 (–) 1 (4%) 1 (<1%)
Adjourned undertaking with conviction 0 (–) 0 (–) 1 (3%) 0 (–) 0 (–) 1 (<1%)
People sentenced 13 16 35 25 27 116

Age and Gender of People Sentenced

Figure 3 shows the gender of people sentenced for cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants grouped by age[14] between 2008–09 and 2012–13.  The average (mean) age of people sentenced for cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants was 40 years and 1 month. Women sentenced over this period were older than men (an average age of 42 years and 10 months, compared with 39 years and 6 months for men). There were no juveniles sentenced over this period.[15]

Figure 3: The number of people sentenced for cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants by gender and age, 2008–09 to 2012–13

  Gender
Age category (years) Male Female
19 0 1
20 to 24 6 2
25 to 29 15 1
30 to 34 17 4
35 to 39 13 1
40 to 44 12 1
45 to 49 10 2
50 to 54 10 4
55 to 59 5 4
60 or older 6 2
Total 94 22

Sentence Types by Gender

Table 2 shows the types of sentence imposed for cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants grouped by gender. As shown, a higher percentage of men received a wholly suspended sentence of imprisonment (40% compared with 32% of women), a period of imprisonment (21% compared with 14%), or an intensive correction order (3% compared with no women).  Conversely, a higher percentage of women received a fine (14% compared with 4% of men) or an adjourned undertaking without conviction (9% compared with no men).

Table 2: The number and percentage of people sentenced for cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants by sentence type and gender, 2008–09 to 2012–13

Sentence type Male Female
Wholly suspended sentence 38 (40%) 7 (32%)
Partially suspended sentence 20 (21%) 5 (23%)
Imprisonment 20 (21%) 3 (14%)
Fine 4 (4%) 3 (14%)
Community-based order 3 (3%) 1 (5%)
Community correction order 3 (3%) 1 (5%)
Intensive correction order 3 (3%) 0 (–)
Adjourned undertaking without conviction 0 (–) 2 (9%)
Mix (intensive correction order and fine) 1 (1%) 0 (–)
Aggregate wholly suspended sentence 1 (1%) 0 (–)
Adjourned undertaking with conviction 1 (1%) 0 (–)
People sentenced 94 22

Sentence Types by Age

As shown in Table 1, the three most common sentence types were wholly suspended sentences, partially suspended sentences, and imprisonment.  The following analysis examines these sentence types by the offender’s age group.

Wholly Suspended Sentences of Imprisonment

As shown in Figure 4, wholly suspended sentences of imprisonment were most likely to be given to people aged between 30 and 39 years (42.9% of the people in these age groups).

Conversely, wholly suspended sentences of imprisonment were less common for people younger than 30 years (28% or 7 of the 25 people in this age group).

Figure 4: The percentage of people who received a wholly suspended sentence of imprisonment for cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants by age group, 2008–09 to 2012–13

Age group (years) Percentage of age group
Younger than 30 years (n = 25) 28.0
30 to 34 (n = 21) 42.9
35 to 39 (n = 14) 42.9
40 to 44 (n = 13) 38.5
45 to 49 (n = 12) 41.7
50 or older (n = 31) 41.9

Partially Suspended Sentences of Imprisonment

As shown in Figure 5, partially suspended sentences of imprisonment were most likely to be given to people aged younger than 30 years (28.0% or 7 of the 25 people in this age group).

Conversely, partially suspended sentences of imprisonment were less common for people aged 35 to 39 (14% or 2 of the 14 people in this age group).

Figure 5: The percentage of people who received a partially suspended sentence of imprisonment for cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants by age group, 2008–09 to 2012–13

Age group (years) Percentage of age group
Younger than 30 years (n = 25) 28.0
30 to 34 (n = 21) 19.0
35 to 39 (n = 14) 14.3
40 to 44 (n = 13) 15.4
45 to 49 (n = 12) 25.0
50 or older (n = 31) 22.6

Imprisonment

As shown in Figure 6, sentences of imprisonment were most likely to be given to people aged between 40 and 44 years (31% or 4 of the 13 people in this age group).

Conversely, sentences of imprisonment were least common for those aged under 30 years, followed closely by people aged 50 or over (16% of people in both these age groups).

Figure 6: The percentage of people who received a period of imprisonment for cultivating a non-commercial quantity of drugs by age group, 2008–09 to 2012–13

Age group (years) Percentage of age group
Younger than 30 years (n = 25) 16.0
30 to 34 (n = 21) 19.0
35 to 39 (n = 14) 21.4
40 to 44 (n = 13) 30.8
45 to 49 (n = 12) 25.0
50 or older (n = 31) 16.1

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.[16]

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 the individual principal sentence.  Principal sentences for cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants must be considered in this broader context.  The following sections analyse the use of imprisonment for cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants from 2008–09 to 2012–13.

Principal Sentence of Imprisonment

A total of 23 people received a principal sentence of imprisonment for cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants between 2008–09 and 2012–13.

Figure 7 shows the number of people sentenced to imprisonment for cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants between 2008–09 and 2012–13 by the length of the imprisonment term. Imprisonment terms ranged from 7 months to 3 years, while the median length of imprisonment was 1 year, 4 months, and 25 days (meaning that half of the imprisonment terms were shorter than 1 year, 4 months, and 25 days and half were longer).

The most common range of imprisonment length was 1 year to less than 2 years (11 people).

Due to small numbers of people sentenced to imprisonment for cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants in some years (for example, 1 in 2009–10), data on average imprisonment lengths by year and by gender are not presented.

Figure 7: The number of people sentenced to imprisonment for cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants by length of imprisonment term, 2008–09 to 2012–13

Imprisonment length Number
Less than 1 year 4
1 to less than 2 years 11
2 to less than 3 years 6
3 to less than 4 years 2

Other Offences Finalised at the Same Hearing

Often people prosecuted for cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants 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 cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants.

Figure 8 shows the number of people sentenced for the principal offence of cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants by the total number of offences for which sentences were set.  The number of sentenced offences per person ranged from 1 to 9, while the median was 2 offences.  There were 26 people (22.4%) sentenced for the single offence of cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants. The average (mean) number of offences per person sentenced for cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants was 2.60.

Figure 8: The number of people sentenced for the principal offence of cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants by the number of sentenced offences per person, 2008–09 to 2012–13

Number of proven offences Number of people
1 26
2 44
3 21
4 13
5 or more 12

While Figure 8 presents the number of sentenced offences for those sentenced for cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants, 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, 56 of the total 116 people (48.3%) also received sentences for theft.  On average, they were sentenced for 1.14 counts of theft.

Table 3: The number and percentage of people sentenced for the principal offence of cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants by the most common offences that were sentenced and the average number of those offences that were sentenced, 2008–09 to 2012–13

  Offence Number % Average
1 Cultivate a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants 116 100.0 1.16*
2 Theft 56 48.3 1.14
3 Possess a drug of dependence 29 25.0 1.21
4 Drug trafficking 13 11.2 1.23*
5 Deal with property suspected of being proceeds of crime 9 7.8 1.11
6 Use a drug of dependence 4 3.4 1.25
7 Possess prohibited weapon without exemption 4 3.4 1.00
8 Handling stolen goods 3 2.6 1.00
9 Prohibited person possess unregistered firearm 2 1.7 1.00
10 Intentionally destroy/damage property (criminal damage) 2 1.7 1.00
  People sentenced 116 100.0 2.60

*May contain offences of drug trafficking and cultivation of varying quantities (non-commercial, commercial, or large commercial).

Total Effective Sentence of Imprisonment

There were 23 people given a total effective sentence of imprisonment.[17]  Figure 9 shows the number of people sentenced to imprisonment for cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants between 2008–09 and 2012–13 by length of total effective sentence.  The length of total effective sentences ranged from 7 months and 17 days to 6 years, while the median total effective length of imprisonment was 1 year and 6 months (meaning that half of the total effective sentence lengths were below 1 year and 6 months and half were above).

The most common range of total effective imprisonment length was 1 year to less than 2 years (10 people).

Figure 9: The number of people sentenced to imprisonment for cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants by length of total effective imprisonment term, 2008–09 to 2012–13

Total effective imprisonment length Number of people
Less than 1 year 3
1 to less than 2 years 10
2 to less than 3 years 7
3 to less than 4 years 2
4 to less than 5 years 0
5 to less than 6 years 0
6 to less than 7 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 cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants.  Sentences and non-parole periods must be considered in this broader context.

Of the 23 people who were sentenced to imprisonment for cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants, 20 were eligible to have a non-parole period fixed.[18] Of these people, 18 were given a non-parole period (90.0%).[19]  Figure 10 shows the number of people sentenced to imprisonment for cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants between 2008–09 and 2012–13 by length of non-parole period.  Non-parole periods ranged from 5 months to 4 years, while the median length of the non-parole period was 1 year (meaning that half of the non-parole periods were below 1 year and half were above).

The most common ranges of non-parole period imposed were less than 1 year and 1 year to less than 2 years (8 people each).

Figure 10: The number of people sentenced to imprisonment for cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants by length of non-parole period, 2008–09 to 2012–13

Non-parole period length Number of people
Less than 1 year 8
1 to less than 2 years 8
2 to less than 3 years 1
3 to less than 4 years 0
4 to less than 5 years 1
No non-parole period 5

Total Effective Sentences of Imprisonment and Non-Parole Periods

Due to small numbers of people sentenced to imprisonment for cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants in some years (for example, 1 in 2009–10), data on average imprisonment lengths by year and by gender are not presented

Total Effective Sentence of Imprisonment by Non-Parole Period

While Figures 9 and 10 present the lengths of the total effective sentences and non-parole periods separately, Figure 11 combines the two methods of describing sentence lengths in the one diagram.  It shows the total effective sentence and non-parole period for cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants 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 11.

As shown, the most common combination of imprisonment length and non-parole period imposed was 1 year with a non-parole period of less than 1 year (6 people – as represented by the largest ‘bubbles’ on the chart).  The length of imprisonment ranged from 7 months and 17 days with no non-parole period to 6 years with a non-parole period of 4 years.

Figure 11: The number of people sentenced to imprisonment for cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants by the total effective sentence and the non-parole period imposed, 2008–09 to 2012–13

Total effective sentence length category Non-parole period category Total
Less than 1 year No non-parole period 3
1 to less than 2 years No non-parole period 2
1 to less than 2 years Less than 1 years 6
1 to less than 2 years 1 to less than 2 years 2
2 to less than 3 years Less than 1 years 2
2 to less than 3 years 1 to less than 2 years 5
3 to less than 4 years 1 to less than 2 years 1
3 to less than 4 years 2 to less than 3 years 1
6 to less than 7 years 4 to less than 5 years 1
People sentenced   23

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

Suspended Sentences of Imprisonment

There were 71 people given a suspended sentence of imprisonment as their total effective sentence.  Of these, 46 people had their prison sentence wholly suspended and 25 people received a partially suspended sentence of imprisonment.  Figure 12 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 12.

Wholly suspended sentence lengths ranged from 4 months to 3 years.  The three most common wholly suspended sentence lengths was 6 months, 1 year and 6 months, and 2 years (5 people each – as represented by the three largest green ‘bubbles’ on the chart).

Partially suspended sentences ranged from 6 months’ imprisonment with 2 months suspended to 2 years and 8 months’ imprisonment with 1 year and 8 months suspended. The three most common partially suspended sentences were 1 year’s imprisonment with 4 months suspended, 1 year’s imprisonment with 8 months suspended, and 1 year and 6 months’ imprisonment with 1 year suspended (2 people each – as represented by the three largest grey ’bubbles’ on the chart).

Figure 12: The number of people given a wholly or partially suspended sentence of imprisonment for cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants by sentence type and length, 2008–09 to 2012–13

Wholly suspended sentence length (months) Number of people
4 1
6 5
7 1
8 2
9 3
10 4
12 4
14 1
15 1
16 1
18 5
19 1
20 1
21 2
22 1
24 5
26 1
27 3
33 1
36 3
People sentenced 46

 

Imprisonment sentence length (months) Suspended period (months) Number of people
6 2 1
6 4 1
7 1 1
12 4 2
12 6 1
12 8 2
12 10 1
13 9 1
14 10 1
18 6 1
18 11 1
18 12 2
18 15 1
19 12 1
20 10 1
21 15 1
24 12 1
24 15 1
27 24 1
30 16 1
31 27 1
32 20 1
People sentenced   25

Community Correction Orders

Community correction orders were introduced in early 2012 to replace community-based orders and intensive correction orders. A feature of community correction orders is that the sentence length of the order can be as high as the statutory maximum of the offence being sentenced.

From 2008–09 to 2012–13, 5 people were given a community correction order for the principal offence of cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants. The length of community correction orders ranged from 1 year to 3 years, while the most common length was 1 year (3 people).

Fines

This analysis includes all fines that were imposed where cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants was the principal offence.  Fines were imposed on 29 people.

As shown in Figure 13, fine amounts ranged from $100 to $4,250, with a median of $500 (meaning that half of the values fell below $500 and half of the values were above $500).

The average (mean) fine amount was $787. The average fine amount imposed against the 24 males was $804, higher than the average fine for the 5 females ($707).

Figure 13: The number of people who received a fine for cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants by fine amount, 2008–09 to 2012–13

Fine amount Number of people (n = 29)
$0 to $199 3
$200 to $399 8
$400 to $599 9
$600 to $799 0
$800 to $999 2
$1,000 to $1,199 2
$1,200 or more 5

Appeals

A sentence imposed on a person may be appealed[20] 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.

To June 2013, 1 person sentenced for a principal offence of cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants in the period 2008–09 to 2012–13 had successfully appealed their conviction. This person originally received a total effective sentence of 1 year and 9 months’ imprisonment, which was wholly suspended, but the person was acquitted after a successful appeal. Thus, the number of people sentenced for a principal offence of cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants is reduced to 115 people once appeals are considered.

There were no successful appeals against sentence during the 2008–09 to 2012–13 period.

Summary

Between 2008–09 and 2012–13, 116 people were sentenced for cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants in the higher courts.  Over this period, the majority of people sentenced were men (81%), while 78% were aged between 25 and 54 years.

The majority of people sentenced for cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants received a wholly suspended sentence of imprisonment (39%), while 22% received a partially suspended sentence and 20% received imprisonment.

Men were more likely than women to be sentenced to a wholly suspended sentence, imprisonment, or an intensive correction order, while women were more likely to be given a fine or an adjourned undertaking without conviction.

Wholly suspended sentences were most common for people aged 30 to 39 years, partially suspended sentences were more likely to be given to people younger than 30, and imprisonment was most likely to be given to people aged between 40 and 44.

Each of the 116 people were sentenced for an average (mean) of 2.60 offences, including 1.16 offences of cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants.  The most common offence finalised in conjunction with cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants was theft (48.3% of all cases).  The number and range of offences for which people with a principal offence of cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants were sentenced help explain why imprisonment sentence lengths were slightly longer for the total effective sentence than for the principal sentence.  The median total effective imprisonment length was 1 year and 6 months, while the median principal imprisonment length was 1 year, 4 months, and 25 days.

Total effective imprisonment lengths ranged from 7 months and 17 days’ imprisonment with no non-parole period to 6 years’ imprisonment with a non-parole period of 4 years.  The most common sentence of imprisonment was 1 year with a non-parole period of less than 1 year.

The three most common partially suspended sentences given were 1 year’s imprisonment with 4 months suspended, 1 year’s imprisonment with 8 months suspended and 1 year and 6 months’ imprisonment with 1 year suspended (2 people in each category). The three most common wholly suspended sentence lengths were 6 months, 1 year and 6 months, and 2 years (5 people each).

One person was able to successfully appeal against their conviction, but no person was able to successfully appeal their sentence during this period.

Endnotes

[1] This report presents sentencing outcomes for people sentenced for the principal offence of cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants in the County and Supreme Courts of Victoria.  The principal offence describes the offence proven that attracted the most serious sentence according to the sentencing hierarchy.  The analysis therefore excludes people sentenced for cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants who received a more serious sentence for another offence forming part of the same presentment or indictment.  Cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants was the principal proven offence for 116 people sentenced in the County and Supreme Courts of Victoria from 2008–09 to 2012–13.

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. 132, which describes sentencing trends for cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants between 2006–07 and 2010–11.

[2] The information source for sentencing outcomes for cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants 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.

The sentencing database used for this analysis was compiled using conviction returns.  Due to incomplete offence information regarding drug cultivation offences on the conviction returns, a further classification exercise was undertaken to determine the specific offence types.  This involved reading the sentencing remarks of the particular cases and determining if the quantity of the drug was non-commercial, commercial, or large commercial.  In total, there were 522 cases that had cultivation of narcotic plants (section 72, 72A, or 72B Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 (Vic)) as the principal proven offence over the five-year period from 2008–09 to 2012–13.  Sentencing remarks were located for 418 cases (80.1%).  The drug quantities for all these cases were checked and coded into the appropriate category.  The remaining cases had sentences that were all within the statutory maximum penalty for the offence and were therefore assumed to have been recorded correctly in the first instance.

[4] Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 (Vic) ss 72–72B.

[5] Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 (Vic) s 70.

[6] Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 (Vic) s 72B.

[7] 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’s website (external link opens in a new window).

[8] Under Schedule 2(6) of the Criminal Procedure Act 2009 (Vic), offences of cultivating a narcotic plant can be tried summarily by the Magistrates’ Court provided that the quantity of plants is not considered to be commercial or large commercial. Prior to the Criminal Procedure Act 2009 (Vic) coming into effect, similar powers were granted under Schedule 4 of the Magistrates’ Court Act 1989 (Vic) allowing the Magistrates’ Court to hear this offence summarily.

[9] 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.

[10] Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 (Vic) s 72B(a).

[11] 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.

[12] Immediate custodial sentence includes imprisonment and partially suspended sentences

[13] The County and Supreme Courts cannot make an order to wholly or partially suspend a period of imprisonment for any offences committed on or after 1 September 2013. Offences of cultivating a non-commercial quantity of narcotic plants that were committed prior to this date may still be eligible for a wholly or partially suspended sentence.

[14] Age is at the time of sentencing. 

[15] 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.

[16] Refer to endnote 11.

[17] All 23 people who were given a principal sentence of imprisonment were also given a total effective sentence of imprisonment.

[18] A total of 3 people were not eligible for parole because they were given a total effective sentence length of less than 1 year.

[19] A non-parole period was not set for 2 people who were eligible for a non-parole period.

[20] 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 (external link opens in a new window).