Sentencing Trends for Indecent Assault in the Higher Courts of Victoria 2009-10 to 2013-14

Sentencing Snapshot 177
Date of Publication: 
26 June 2015

Sentencing Snapshot no. 177 describes sentencing outcomes for the offence of indecent assault in the County Court of Victoria between 2009–10 and 2013–14.

The most recent Sentencing Snapshot for this offence is Snapshot no. 208.

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, 2015

Introduction

This Sentencing Snapshot describes sentencing outcomes[1] for the offence of indecent assault in the County Court of Victoria between 2009–10 and 2013–14.[2] Adjustments made by the Court of Appeal to sentence or conviction as at June 2014 have been incorporated into the data in this Snapshot.

Detailed data on indecent assault and other offences are available on SACStat – Higher Courts.

A person who assaults another person in indecent circumstances and without that person’s consent is guilty of the offence of indecent assault. Indecent assault is an indictable offence that carries a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment[3] and/or a fine of 1,200 penalty units.[4] Indictable offences are more serious offences triable before a judge and jury in the County or Supreme Court. Indecent assault can also be tried summarily by the Magistrates’ Court if the Magistrates’ Court considers it appropriate and the defendant consents.

Indecent assault was the principal offence[5] in 1.2% of cases sentenced in the higher courts between 2009–10 and 2013–14.

People sentenced

From 2009–10 to 2013–14, 116 people were sentenced in the higher courts for a principal offence of indecent assault.

Figure 1 shows the number of people sentenced for the principal offence of indecent assault by financial year. There were 23 people sentenced for this offence in 2013–14, down by 1 person from the previous year. The number of people sentenced was highest in 2010–11 (27 people).

Figure 1: The number of people sentenced for indecent assault by financial year, 2009–10 to 2013–14

Financial year Total
2009-10 17
2010-11 27
2011-12 25
2012-13 24
2013-14 23
Total 116

Sentence types and trends

Figure 2 shows the total number of people sentenced for indecent assault and the number that 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.[6] Over the five-year period, 47% of people were given an immediate custodial sentence. This peaked at 65% (15 of 23) in 2013–14 after a low of 38% (9 of 24) in 2012–13.

Figure 2: The number of people sentenced for indecent assault and the number that received an immediate custodial sentence, 2009–10 to 2013–14

Financial year Custodial Non-Custodial Total
2009-10 8 9 17
2010-11 13 14 27
2011-12 10 15 25
2012-13 9 15 24
2013-14 15 8 23
Total 55 61 116

Table 1 shows the number of people sentenced for indecent assault from 2009–10 to 2013–14 by the types of sentences imposed.

Over the five-year period, around one-third of the people sentenced for indecent assault received a period of imprisonment (35% or 41 of 116 people), while 26% received a wholly suspended sentence of imprisonment, 16% received a community correction order, and 9% received a partially suspended sentence of imprisonment.

The number and percentage of people receiving imprisonment for indecent assault were lowest during 2011–12 (6 of 25 people or 24%) and highest during 2013–14 (11 of 23 people or 48%).

The number and percentage of people given a wholly suspended sentence were lowest during 2013–14 (2 of 23 people or 9%). The number of people given a wholly suspended sentence was highest during 2010–11 and 2011–12 (8 people), while the percentage was highest during 2009–10 (41%).

Table 1: The number and percentage of people sentenced for indecent assault by sentence type, 2009–10 to 2013–14

Sentence type 2009–10 2010–11 2011–12 2012–13 2013–14 Total
Imprisonment 7 (41%) 10 (37%) 6 (24%) 7 (29%) 11 (48%) 41 (35%)
Wholly suspended sentence 7 (41%) 8 (30%) 8 (32%) 5 (21%) 2 (9%) 30 (26%)
Community correction order 0 (–) 0 (–) 3 (12%) 9 (38%) 6 (26%) 18 (16%)
Partially suspended sentence 1 (6%) 1 (4%) 4 (16%) 1 (4%) 3 (13%) 10 (9%)
Community-based order 0 (–) 4 (15%) 1 (4%) 0 (–) 0 (–) 5 (4%)
Fine 1 (6%) 2 (7%) 1 (4%) 0 (–) 0 (–) 4 (3%)
Restricted involuntary treatment order (hospital order) 0 (–) 1 (4%) 0 (–) 1 (4%) 0 (–) 2 (2%)
Residential treatment order 0 (–) 1 (4%) 0 (–) 0 (–) 0 (–) 1 (<1%)
Mix (community-based order and aggregate fine) 0 (–) 0 (–) 1 (4%) 0 (–) 0 (–) 1 (<1%)
Aggregate imprisonment 0 (–) 0 (–) 0 (–) 0 (–) 1 (4%) 1 (<1%)
Aggregate fine 1 (6%) 0 (–) 0 (–) 0 (–) 0 (–) 1 (<1%)
Adjourned undertaking without conviction 0 (–) 0 (–) 0 (–) 1 (4%) 0 (–) 1 (<1%)
Adjourned undertaking with conviction 0 (–) 0 (–) 1 (4%) 0 (–) 0 (–) 1 (<1%)
People sentenced 17 27 25 24 23 116

Age and gender of people sentenced

Data on the age and gender of people sentenced for indecent assault are available on SACStat – Higher Courts.

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.[7]

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 principal sentence. Principal sentences for indecent assault must be considered in this broader context. The following sections analyse the use of imprisonment for the offence of indecent assault from 2009–10 to 2013–14.

Principal sentence of imprisonment

A total of 41 people received a principal sentence of imprisonment for indecent assault between 2009–10 and 2013–14.

Figure 3 shows these people by the length of their imprisonment term.[8] Imprisonment terms ranged from 15 days to 4 years, while the median length of imprisonment was 1 year and 6 months (meaning that half of the imprisonment terms were shorter than 1 year and 6 months and half were longer).

The most common range of imprisonment length imposed was 1 year to less than 2 years (15 people).

Figure 3: The number of people sentenced to imprisonment for indecent assault by length of imprisonment term, 2009–10 to 2013–14

Imprisonment length Number of people
Less than 1 year 13
1 to less than 2 years 15
2 to less than 3 years 9
3 to less than 4 years 3
4 to less than 5 years 1
People sentenced 41

As shown in Figure 4, the average length of imprisonment term imposed on people sentenced for indecent assault ranged from 1 year and 2 months in 2010–11 to 1 year and 8 months in 2009–10, 2011–12, and 2012–13.

Figure 4: The average length of imprisonment term imposed on people sentenced for indecent assault, 2009–10 to 2013–14

Financial year Average length of imprisonment term
2009-10 (n= 7) 1 year, 8 months
2010-11 (n= 10) 1 year, 2 months
2011-12 (n= 6) 1 year, 8 months
2012-13 (n= 7) 1 year, 8 months
2013-14 (n= 11) 1 year, 6 months

Other offences finalised at the same hearing

Often people prosecuted for indecent assault 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 indecent assault.

Figure 5 shows the number of people sentenced for the principal offence of indecent assault by the total number of offences for which sentences were set. The number of sentenced offences per person ranged from 1 to 19, while the median was 2 offences. There were 34 people (29.3%) sentenced for the single offence of indecent assault. The average number of offences per person sentenced for indecent assault was 3.41.

Figure 5: The number of people sentenced for the principal offence of indecent assault by the number of sentenced offences per person, 2009–10 to 2013–14

Number of offences Number of people
1 34
2 25
3 20
4 13
5-9 20
10-19 4
Total 116

While Figure 5 presents the number of sentenced offences for people sentenced for indecent assault, Table 2 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, 6 of the total 116 people (5.2%) also received sentences for criminal damage. On average, they were sentenced for 1.5 counts of criminal damage.

Table 2: The number and percentage of people sentenced for the principal offence of indecent assault by the most common offences sentenced and the average number of those offences sentenced, 2009–10 to 2013–14

Offence No. of cases % of cases Average no. of proven offences per case
1. Indecent assault 116 100.0 2.47
2. Intentionally destroy/damage property (criminal damage) 6 5.2 1.50
3. Assault 6 5.2 1.17
4. Aggravated burglary 5 4.3 1.60
5. Causing injury recklessly 5 4.3 1.20
6. Gross indecency with or in the presence of a girl under 16 4 3.5 1.75
7. Indecent act with or in the presence of a child under 16 3 2.6 2.00
8. Make threat to inflict serious injury 3 2.6 1.67
9. Gross indecency with or in the presence of a person under 16 3 2.6 1.33
10. False imprisonment 3 2.6 1.00
People sentenced 116 100.0 3.41

Total effective sentence of imprisonment

There were 42 people given a total effective sentence of imprisonment.[9] Figure 6 shows the number of people sentenced to imprisonment for indecent assault between 2009–10 and 2013–14 by length of total effective sentence. The length of total effective sentences ranged from 15 days to 9 years, while the median total effective length of imprisonment was 2 years (meaning that half of the total effective sentence lengths were below 2 years and half were above).

The most common range of total effective imprisonment length was 1 year to less than 2 years (12 people).

Figure 6: The number of people sentenced to imprisonment for indecent assault by length of total effective imprisonment term, 2009–10 to 2013–14

Total effective imprisonment length Number of people
Less than 1 year 7
1 to less than 2 years 12
2 to less than 3 years 10
3 to less than 4 years 2
4 to less than 5 years 3
5 to less than 6 years 5
6 to less than 7 years 1
7 to less than 8 years 1
8 to less than 9 years 0
9 to less than 10 years 1
People sentenced 42

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 indecent assault. Sentences and non-parole periods must be considered in this broader context.

Of the 42 people sentenced to imprisonment for indecent assault, 35 were eligible to have a non-parole period fixed.[10] Of these people, 30 were given a non-parole period (71%).[11] Figure 7 shows the number of people sentenced to imprisonment for indecent assault between 2009–10 and 2013–14 by length of non-parole period. Non-parole periods ranged from 6 months to 6 years, while the median length of the non-parole period was 1 year and 3 months (meaning that half of the non-parole periods were below 1 year and 3 months and half were above). 

The most common range of non-parole period imposed was 1 year to less than 2 years (10 people).

Figure 7: The number of people sentenced to imprisonment for indecent assault by length of non-parole period, 2009–10 to 2013–14

Non-parole period Number of people
Less than 1 year 9
1 to less than 2 years 10
2 to less than 3 years 5
3 to less than 4 years 3
4 to less than 5 years 1
5 to less than 6 years 1
6 to less than 7 years 1
No non-parole period 9

Total effective sentences of imprisonment and non-parole periods

Figure 8 presents the average length of total effective sentences of imprisonment compared with the average length of non-parole periods from 2009–10 to 2013–14.

From 2009–10 to 2013–14, the average length of total effective sentences for all people ranged from 2 years and 2 months in 2013–14 to 3 years and 6 months in 2009–10.  Over the same period, the average length of non-parole periods ranged from 1 year and 3 months in 2013–14 to 2 years and 3 months in 2012–13.

Figure 8: The average total effective sentence and the average non-parole period imposed on people sentenced to imprisonment for indecent assault, 2009–10 to 2013–14

Financial year Average total effective length Average non-parole period
2009-10 3 years, 6 months 2 years, 2 months
2010-11 2 years, 6 months 2 years, 0 months
2011-12 2 years, 9 months 1 year, 11 months
2012-13 2 years, 9 months 2 years, 3 months
2013-14 2 years, 2 months 1 year, 3 months

Total effective sentence of imprisonment by non-parole period

Data on the total effective sentence of imprisonment by non-parole period for indecent assault are available on SACStat – Higher Courts.

Non-imprisonment sentences

Data on the length of non-imprisonment sentence types, such as community correction orders, suspended sentences, and fines, for indecent assault are available on SACStat – Higher Courts.

Summary

Between 2009–10 and 2013–14, 116 people were sentenced for indecent assault in the higher courts.  Of these people, 41 (35%) were given a principal sentence of imprisonment.

The number and range of offences for which people with a principal offence of indecent assault 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 2 years while the median principal imprisonment length was 1 year and 6 months.

Total effective imprisonment lengths ranged from 15 days to 9 years, and non-parole periods (where imposed) ranged from 6 months to 6 years.

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 found to be unfit to stand trial or 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. 146, which describes sentencing trends for indecent assault between 2007–08 and 2011–12.

[2] Data on first instance sentence outcomes presented in this Snapshot were obtained from the Strategic Analysis and Review Team at Court Services Victoria. The Sentencing Advisory Council collected data on appeal outcomes from the Australasian Legal Information Institute (external link opens in a new window). 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.

[3] Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) s 39.

[4] The value of a penalty unit changes each year and can be found in the Victorian Government Gazette and on the Victorian Legislation and Parliamentary Documents website (external link opens in a new window).

[5] 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.

[6] Immediate custodial sentences included imprisonment, partially suspended sentence, restricted involuntary treatment orders (hospital order), and a residential treatment order.

[7] Refer to endnote 5.

[8] Data presented in this section do not include imprisonment lengths for people who received an aggregate sentence of imprisonment. Sentence lengths for aggregate sentences of imprisonment apply to the whole case, while Figure 3 only deals with sentences of imprisonment for the principal proven offence of indecent assault. During the 2009–10 to 2013–14 period, 1 person received an aggregate form of imprisonment.

[9] Of the 41 people who were given a principal sentence of imprisonment, all were given a total effective sentence of imprisonment. One person given an aggregate form of imprisonment is also counted in this section.

[10] A total of 7 people were not eligible for parole because they were given a total effective sentence length of less than one year.

[11] Three people were not given a non-parole period relating to that case alone, but a non-parole period that also related to other cases. It is not possible to determine the length of the non-parole period that relates to these cases. The non-parole periods for these people are excluded from the analysis. A non-parole period was not set for 2 people who were eligible for a non-parole period.