Sentencing Trends for Causing Injury Recklessly in the Higher Courts of Victoria 2010–11 to 2014–15

Sentencing Snapshot 190
Date of Publication: 
28 June 2016

Sentencing Snapshot no. 190 describes sentencing outcomes for the offence of causing injury recklessly in the County and Supreme Courts of Victoria between 2010–11 and 2014–15.

The most recent Sentencing Snapshot for this offence is Snapshot no. 216.

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, 2016

Introduction

This Sentencing Snapshot describes sentencing outcomes[1] for the offence of causing injury recklessly in the County and Supreme Courts of Victoria between 2010–11 and 2014–15.[2] Adjustments made by the Court of Appeal to sentence or conviction as at June 2015 have been incorporated into the data in this Snapshot.

Detailed data on causing injury recklessly and other offences are available on SACStat – Higher Courts.

The offence applies to a person who recklessly causes injury to another person without lawful excuse and carries a maximum penalty of 5 years’ imprisonment and/or a fine of 600 penalty units.[3]  Recklessness requires foresight on the part of the accused of the probability that injury will occur as a consequence of his or her actions. ‘Injury’ includes unconsciousness, hysteria, pain, and any substantial impairment of bodily function. These definitions are not exhaustive. Causing injury recklessly[4] is an indictable offence, but it can also be tried summarily by the Magistrates’ Court if the Magistrates’ Court considers it appropriate and the defendant consents.

Causing injury recklessly was the principal offence[5] in 1.8% of cases sentenced in the higher courts between 2010–11 and 2014–15.

People sentenced

From 2010–11 to 2014–15, 170 people were sentenced in the higher courts for a principal offence of causing injury recklessly.

Figure 1 shows the number of people sentenced for the principal offence of causing injury recklessly by financial year. There were 39 people sentenced for this offence in 2014–15, down by 3 people from the previous year.  The number of people sentenced was highest in 2013–14 (42 people).

Figure 1: The number of people sentenced for causing injury recklessly by financial year, 2010–11 to 2014–15

Financial year Total
2010–11 19
2011–12 32
2012–13 38
2013–14 42
2014–15 39
Total 170

Sentence types and trends

Figure 2 shows the total number of people sentenced for causing injury recklessly 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, 31% of people were given an immediate custodial sentence.  This peaked at 46% (18 of 39) in 2014–15 after a low of 11% (2 of 19) in 2010–11.

Figure 2: The number of people sentenced for causing injury recklessly and the number that received an immediate custodial sentence, 2010–11 to 2014–15

Financial year Custodial Non-Custodial Total
2010–11 2 17 19
2011–12 8 24 32
2012–13 11 27 38
2013–14 14 28 42
2014–15 18 21 39
Total 53 117 170

Table 1 shows the number of people sentenced for causing injury recklessly from 2010–11 to 2014–15 by the types of sentences imposed.

Over the five-year period, around 4 in 10 people sentenced for causing injury recklessly received a community correction order (41% or 69 of 170 people), while 17% received a period of imprisonment, and 9% received a wholly suspended sentence of imprisonment.

The percentage of people receiving a community correction order for causing injury recklessly peaked at 53% (20 of 38 people) in 2012–13. The number was highest in 2013–14 (22 of 42 people or 52%), while in 2011–12, when community correction orders were introduced as a sentencing disposition, only 28% (9 of 32 people) received a community correction order.

The percentage and number of people receiving imprisonment for causing injury recklessly peaked at 21% (9 of 42 people) in 2013–14. The percentage and number of people receiving imprisonment for causing injury recklessly were lowest in 2010–11 (11% or 2 of 19 people).

Table 1: The number and percentage of people sentenced for causing injury recklessly by sentence type, 2010–11 to 2014–15

Sentence type 2010–11 2011–12 2012–13 2013–14 2014–15 Total
Community correction order 0 (–) 9 (28%) 20 (53%) 22 (52%) 18 (46%) 69 (41%)
Imprisonment 2 (11%) 4 (13%) 7 (18%) 9 (21%) 7 (18%) 29 (17%)
Wholly suspended sentence 4 (21%) 5 (16%) 3 (8%) 3 (7%) 0 (–) 15 (9%)
Community-based order 7 (37%) 4 (13%) 0 (–) 0 (–) 0 (–) 11 (6%)
Fine 1 (5%) 4 (13%) 4 (11%) 1 (2%) 0 (–) 10 (6%)
Partially suspended sentence 0 (–) 4 (13%) 2 (5%) 1 (2%) 1 (3%) 8 (5%)
Aggregate imprisonment 0 (–) 0 (–) 0 (–) 3 (7%) 4 (10%) 7 (4%)
Mix (aggregate imprisonment and community correction order) 0 (–) 0 (–) 0 (–) 0 (–) 4 (10%) 4 (2%)
Adjourned undertaking with conviction 2 (11%) 0 (–) 0 (–) 1 (2%) 1 (3%) 4 (2%)
Adjourned undertaking without conviction 2 (11%) 2 (6%) 0 (–) 0 (–) 0 (–) 4 (2%)
Mix (imprisonment and community correction order) 0 (–) 0 (–) 1 (3%) 0 (–) 1 (3%) 2 (1%)
Youth justice centre order 0 (–) 0 (–) 1 (3%) 1 (2%) 0 (–) 2 (1%)
Non-custodial supervision order 0 (–) 0 (–) 0 (–) 1 (2%) 1 (3%) 2 (1%)
Aggregate youth justice centre order 0 (–) 0 (–) 0 (–) 0 (–) 1 (3%) 1 (<1%)
Mix (community-based order and fine) 1 (5%) 0 (–) 0 (–) 0 (–) 0 (–) 1 (<1%)
Unconditional release 0 (–) 0 (–) 0 (–) 0 (–) 1 (3%) 1 (<1%)
People sentenced 19 32 38 42 39 170

Age and gender of people sentenced

Data on the age and gender of people sentenced for causing injury recklessly 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 causing injury recklessly must be considered in this broader context. The following sections analyse the use of imprisonment for the offence of causing injury recklessly from 2010–11 to 2014–15.

Principal sentence of imprisonment

A total of 42 people (25%) received a principal sentence of imprisonment for causing injury recklessly between 2010–11 and 2014–15.[8]

Figure 3 shows these people by the length of their imprisonment term.[9]  Imprisonment terms ranged from 2 months and 15 days to 2 years, while the median length of imprisonment was 8 months, (meaning that half of the imprisonment terms were shorter than 8 months and half were longer).

The most common length of imprisonment imposed was less than 1 year (16 people).

The average length of imprisonment term by financial year is not displayed due to low numbers of people.

Figure 3: The number of people sentenced to imprisonment for causing injury recklessly by length of imprisonment term, 2010–11 to 2014–15

Imprisonment length Number of people
Less than 1 year 16
1 to less than 2 years 9
2 to less than 3 years 6
People sentenced 31

Other offences finalised at the same hearing

Often people prosecuted for causing injury recklessly 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 causing injury recklessly.

Figure 4 shows the number of people sentenced for the principal offence of causing injury recklessly by the total number of offences for which sentences were set.  The number of sentenced offences per person ranged from 1 to 37, while the median was 2 offences.  There were 45 people (26.5%) sentenced for the single offence of causing injury recklessly.  The average number of offences per person sentenced for causing injury recklessly was 2.94.

Figure 4: The number of people sentenced for the principal offence of causing injury recklessly by the number of sentenced offences per person, 2010–11 to 2014–15

Number of offences Number of people
1 45
2 56
3 29
4 16
5–9 21
10–19 1
20+ 2
Total 170

While Figure 4 presents the number of sentenced offences for those sentenced for causing injury recklessly, 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, 43 of the total 170 people (25.3%) also received sentences for aggravated burglary.  On average, they were sentenced for 1 count of aggravated burglary.

Table 2: The number and percentage of people sentenced for the principal offence of causing injury recklessly by the most common offences that were sentenced and the average number of those offences that were sentenced, 2010–11 to 2014–15

Offence Number of cases Percentage of cases Average number of offences per case
1. Causing injury recklessly 170 100.0 1.18
2. Aggravated burglary 43 25.3 1.00
3. Intentionally destroy/damage property (criminal damage) 35 20.6 1.06
4. Theft 17 10.0 1.47
5. Common Law assault 16 9.4 1.69
6. Affray 9 5.3 1.00
7. Armed robbery 8 4.7 1.00
8. False imprisonment 7 4.1 3.57
9. Possess a drug of dependence 7 4.1 1.29
10. Unlawful assault 6 3.5 1.17
People sentenced 170 100.0 2.94

Total effective sentence of imprisonment

Figure 5 shows the number of people sentenced to imprisonment for causing injury recklessly between 2010–11 and 2014–15 by length of total effective sentence.[10]   The length of total effective sentences ranged from 8 days (combined with a community correction order) to 3 years, while the median total effective length of imprisonment was 1 year (meaning that half of the total effective sentence lengths were below 1 year and half were above).

The most common total effective imprisonment length was less than 1 year (20 people).

Figure 5: The number of people sentenced to imprisonment for causing injury recklessly by length of total effective imprisonment term, 2010–11 to 2014–15

Total effective imprisonment length Number of people
Less than 1 year 20
1 to less than 2 years 12
2 to less than 3 years 9
3 to less than 4 years 2
People sentenced 43

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 causing injury recklessly.  Sentences and non-parole periods must be considered in this broader context.

Of the 43 people who were sentenced to imprisonment for causing injury recklessly, 23 were eligible to have a non-parole period fixed.[11]  Of these people, 16 were given a non-parole period (70%).[12]  Figure 6 shows the number of people sentenced to imprisonment for causing injury recklessly between 2010–11 and 2014–15 by length of non-parole period.  Non-parole periods ranged from 4 months to 1 year and 6 months, while the median length of the non-parole period was 1 year, 1 month and 15 days (meaning that half of the non-parole periods were below 1 year, 1 month and 15 days and half were above).

The majority of people sentenced to imprisonment for causing injury recklessly did not receive a minimum non-parole period (26 people).

Figure 6: The number of people sentenced to imprisonment for causing injury recklessly by length of non-parole period, 2010–11 to 2014–15

Non-parole period Number of people
Less than 1 year 7
1 to less than 2 years 9
No non-parole period 26

Total effective sentences of imprisonment and non-parole periods

The average length of total effective sentences of imprisonment and non-parole periods by financial year is not displayed due to low numbers of people.

Total effective sentence of imprisonment by non-parole period

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

Summary

Between 2010–11 and 2014–15, 170 people were sentenced for causing injury recklessly in the higher courts.  Of these people, 69 (41%) were given a community correction order, and 42 (25%) were given a principal sentence of imprisonment.

The number and range of offences for which people with a principal offence of causing injury recklessly 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 1 year while the median principal imprisonment length was 8 months.

Total effective imprisonment lengths ranged from 8 days (combined with a community correction order) to 3 years, and non-parole periods (where imposed) ranged from 4 months to 1 year and 6 months.

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, these orders 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. 159, which describes sentencing trends for causing injury recklessly between 2008–09 and 2012–13.

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

[4] Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) s 18.

[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 sentence includes imprisonment, aggregate imprisonment, partially suspended sentence, mix (aggregate imprisonment and community correction order), youth justice centre order, mix (imprisonment and community correction order), and aggregate youth justice centre order.

[7] Refer to endnote 5.

[8] This total includes the people in Table 1 who received a sentence of imprisonment, mix (imprisonment and community correction order), aggregate imprisonment, and mix (aggregate imprisonment and community correction order).

[9] 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 causing injury recklessly. During the 2010–11 to 2014–15 period, 11 people received an aggregate form of imprisonment.

[10] All of the 42 people who were given a principal sentence of imprisonment were also given a total effective sentence of imprisonment. One extra person was also included because they received a total effective sentence of imprisonment, although their principal sentence for causing injury recklessly was amended to a community correction order post appeal (they still received imprisonment for the other charges in the case and for their total effective sentence).

[11] A total of 20 people were not eligible for parole because they were given a total effective sentence length of less than one year.

[12] One person was not given a non-parole period relating to that case alone, but a non-parole period also relating to other cases. It is not possible to determine the length of the non-parole period relating to this case. The non-parole period for this person was excluded from the analysis. A non-parole period was not set for 6 people who were eligible for a non-parole period.