Sentencing Trends for Indecent Assault in the Higher Courts of Victoria 2011-12 to 2015-16

Sentencing Snapshot 208
Date of Publication: 
31 May 2017

Sentencing Snapshot no. 208 describes sentencing outcomes for the offence of indecent assault in the County Court of Victoria from 2011–12 to 2015–16.

This is the most recent Sentencing Snapshot for this offence.

You can also find statistics for this offence on SACStat.

Authored and published by the Sentencing Advisory Council
© State of Victoria, Sentencing Advisory Council, 2017

Introduction

This Sentencing Snapshot describes sentencing outcomes[1] for the offence of indecent assault in the County Court of Victoria from 2011–12 to 2015–16.[2] Adjustments made by the Court of Appeal to sentence or conviction as at December 2016 have been incorporated into the data in this Snapshot.

Detailed data on indecent assault and other offences is 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 accused consents.

Indecent assault was the principal offence[5] in 1.2% of cases sentenced in the higher courts from 2011–12 to 2015–16.

People sentenced

From 2011–12 to 2015–16, 111 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 21 people sentenced for this offence in 2015–16, up by 2 people from the previous year.  The number of people sentenced was highest in 2012–13 (25 people).

Figure 1: The number of people sentenced for indecent assault by financial year, 2011–12 to 2015–16

Financial Year Number
2011–12 23
2012–13 25
2013–14 23
2014–15 19
2015–16 21
Total 111

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 imprisonment or detention.[6]  Over the five-year period, 41% of people were given an immediate custodial sentence. 

Figure 2: The number of people sentenced for indecent assault and the number that received an immediate custodial sentence, 2011–12 to 2015–16

Financial Year Custodial Non-custodial Total
2011–12 8 15 23
2012–13 9 16 25
2013–14 15 8 23
2014–15 7 12 19
2015–16 6 15 21
Total 45 66 111

Table 1 shows the number of people sentenced for indecent assault from 2011–12 to 2015–16 by the types of sentences imposed. The availability of different sentence types has changed over time. Most notably, wholly and partially suspended sentences have now been abolished.[7]

Over the five–year period, the majority of people sentenced for indecent assault received a period of imprisonment (33% or 37 of 111 people).  Of these, 31 people received imprisonment, 4 people received a combined sentence of imprisonment with a community correction order and 2 people received an aggregate sentence of imprisonment. People sentenced for indecent assault also commonly received a community correction order (32% or 36 of 111 people).

The percentage and number of people who received any form of imprisonment for indecent assault were highest at 61% (14 of 23 people) in 2013–14. The percentage and number of people who received any form of imprisonment for indecent assault were lowest in 2011–12 (17% or 4 of 23 people).

Table 1: The number and percentage of people sentenced for indecent assault by sentence type, 2011–12 to 2015–16 (in descending order of numbers for 2015–16)

Sentence type 2011–12 2012–13 2013–14 2014–15 2015–16 Total
Community correction order 3 (13%) 9 (36%) 6 (26%) 6 (32%) 12 (57%) 36 (32%)
Imprisonment 4 (17%) 7 (28%) 12 (52%) 5 (26%) 3 (14%) 31 (28%)
Imprisonment and community correction order (combined) 0 (–) 0 (–) 0 (–) 1 (5%) 3 (14%) 4 (4%)
Wholly suspended sentence 7 (30%) 6 (24%) 2 (9%) 1 (5%) 1 (5%) 17 (15%)
Fine 1 (4%) 0 (–) 0 (–) 1 (5%) 1 (5%) 3 (3%)
Adjourned undertaking with conviction 1 (4%) 0 (–) 0 (–) 0 (–) 1 (5%) 2 (2%)
Partially suspended sentence 4 (17%) 1 (4%) 1 (4%) 1 (5%) 0 (–) 7 (6%)
Adjourned undertaking without conviction 0 (–) 1 (4%) 0 (–) 2 (11%) 0 (–) 3 (3%)
Aggregate imprisonment 0 (–) 0 (–) 2 (9%) 0 (–) 0 (–) 2 (2%)
Non-custodial supervision order 1 (4%) 0 (–) 0 (–) 1 (5%) 0 (–) 2 (2%)
Restricted involuntary treatment order (hospital order) 0 (–) 1 (4%) 0 (–) 0 (–) 0 (–) 1 (<1%)
Community-based order and aggregate fine (combined) 1 (4%) 0 (–) 0 (–) 0 (–) 0 (–) 1 (<1%)
Community-based order 1 (4%) 0 (–) 0 (–) 0 (–) 0 (–) 1 (<1%)
Unconditional release order 0 (–) 0 (–) 0 (–) 1 (5%) 0 (–) 1 (<1%)
People sentenced 23 25 23 19 21 111

Age and gender of people sentenced

Data on the age and gender of people sentenced for indecent assault is 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 sentence imposed for the charge that is the principal offence.[8]

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 is 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 2011–12 to 2015–16.

Principal sentence of imprisonment

A total of 37 people received a principal sentence of imprisonment for indecent assault from 2011–12 to 2015–16.[9]

Figure 3 shows these people by the length of their imprisonment term.[10]  Imprisonment terms ranged from 15 days to 4 years, while the median length of imprisonment was 1 year and 2 months (meaning that half of the imprisonment terms were shorter than 1 year and 2 months and half were longer).

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

Figure 3: The number of people sentenced to imprisonment for indecent assault by length of imprisonment term, 2011–12 to 2015–16

Imprisonment length Number of people
Less than 1 year 13
1 to less than 2 years 15
2 to less than 3 years 4
3 to less than 4 years 2
4 to less than 5 years 1
People sentenced 35

As shown in Figure 4, the average (mean) length of imprisonment imposed on people sentenced for indecent assault ranged from 8 months in 2014–15 to 1 year and 8 months in 2011–12 and 2012–13.

Figure 4: The average (mean) length of imprisonment imposed on people sentenced for indecent assault, 2011–12 to 2015–16

Financial year Number of people Average length of imprisonment term
2011–12 4 1 year, 8 months
2012–13 7 1 year, 8 months
2013–14 12 1 year, 5 months
2014–15 6 8 months
2015–16 6 1 year, 1 month

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 imposed.  The number of sentenced offences per person ranged from 1 to 16, while the median was 2 offences.  There were 44 people (39.6%) sentenced for the single offence of indecent assault.  The average number of offences per person sentenced for indecent assault was 2.78.

Figure 5: The number of people sentenced for the principal offence of indecent assault by the number of sentenced offences per person, 2011–12 to 2015–16

Number of offences Number of people
1 44
2 29
3 16
4 7
5–9 11
10+ 4
Total 111

Table 2 shows the 10 most common offences for people sentenced for indecent assault, by number and percentage. The last column sets out the average number of offences sentenced per person.  For example, 8 of the total 111 people (7.2%) also received sentences for criminal damage.  On average, they were sentenced for 1.38 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 that were sentenced and the average number of those offences that were sentenced, 2011–12 to 2015–16

Offence Number of cases Percentage of cases Average number of proven offences per case
1. Indecent assault 111 100.0 1.95
2. Intentionally destroy/damage property (criminal damage) 8 7.2 1.38
3. Causing injury recklessly 5 4.5 1.20
4. Common law assault 5 4.5 1.20
5. Theft 3 2.7 1.00
6. False imprisonment 3 2.7 1.00
7. Aggravated burglary 3 2.7 1.00
8. Make threat to inflict serious injury 2 1.8 2.00
9. Make threat to kill 2 1.8 1.50
10. Gross indecency with a child under 16 2 1.8 1.50
People sentenced 111 100.0 2.78

Total effective imprisonment terms

Figure 6 shows the number of people sentenced to imprisonment for indecent assault from 2011–12 to 2015–16 by length of total effective imprisonment term. The total effective imprisonment terms ranged from 15 days to 8 years and 3 months, while the median total effective imprisonment term was 1 year and 6 months (meaning that half of the total effective imprisonment terms were below 1 year and 6 months and half were above).

The most common total effective imprisonment term was 1 to less than 2 years (13 people).

Figure 6: The number of people sentenced to imprisonment for indecent assault by length of total effective imprisonment term, 2011–12 to 2015–16

Total effective imprisonment length Number of people
Less than 1 year 10
1 to less than 2 years 13
2 to less than 3 years 7
3 to less than 4 years 1
4 to less than 5 years 1
5 to less than 6 years 2
6 to less than 7 years 1
7 to less than 8 years 1
8 to less than 9 years 1
People sentenced 37

Non-parole period

If a person is sentenced to a term of immediate imprisonment of less than 1 year, the court cannot impose a non-parole period. For terms between 1 year and less than 2 years, the court has the discretion to fix a non-parole period. For terms of imprisonment of 2 years or more, the court must impose a non-parole period in most circumstances. 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 in custody.

Of the 37 people who were sentenced to imprisonment for indecent assault, 27 were eligible to have a non-parole period fixed.[11] Of these people, 22 were given a non-parole period (81%).[12]  Figure 7 shows the number of people sentenced to imprisonment for indecent assault from 2011–12 to 2015–16 by length of non-parole period.  Non-parole periods ranged from 6 months to 5 years and 6 months, 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 majority of people did not receive a non-parole period (14 people).

Figure 7: The number of people sentenced to imprisonment for indecent assault by length of non-parole period, 2011–12 to 2015–16

Non-parole period Number of people
Less than 1 year 7
1 to less than 2 years 9
2 to less than 3 years 2
3 to less than 4 years 1
4 to less than 5 years 1
5 to less than 6 years 2
No non-parole period 14
Total people 36

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 2011–12 to 2015–16.

From 2011–12 to 2015–16, the average length of total effective sentences for all people ranged from 11 months in 2014–15 to 3 years and 4 months in 2011–12.  Over the same period, the average length of non-parole periods ranged from 11 months in 2015–16 to 2 years and 2 months in 2012–13.

Further data on total effective sentences of imprisonment and corresponding non-parole periods for indecent assault is available on SACStat – Higher Courts.

Figure 8: The average total effective sentence and the average non-parole period imposed on people sentenced to imprisonment for indecent assault, 2011–12 to 2015–16

Financial year Average total effective length Average non-parole period
2011–12 3 years, 4 months 2 years, 1 month
2012–13 2 years, 9 months 2 years, 2 months
2013–14 2 years, 5 months 1 year, 7 months
2014–15 11 months 1 year, 0 months
2015–16 1 year, 1 month 11 months

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

From 2011–12 to 2015–16, 111 people were sentenced for indecent assault in the higher courts. Of these people, 37 (33%) 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 1 year and 6 months, while the median principal imprisonment length was 1 year and 2 months.

Total effective imprisonment lengths ranged from 15 days to 8 years and 3 months, and non-parole periods (where imposed) ranged from 6 months to 5 years 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 accused 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. 177, which describes sentencing trends for indecent assault from 2009–10 to 2013–14.

[2] Data on first-instance sentence outcomes presented in this Snapshot was obtained from the Strategic Analysis and Review Team at Court Services Victoria. Data on appeal outcomes was collected by the Sentencing Advisory Council from the Australasian Legal Information Institute, and also was 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 is accurate, the data is subject to revision.

[3] During the reference period of this Snapshot, indecent assault was an offence under section 39 of the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic). It has now been repealed and replaced by the two similar offences of ‘sexual assault’ and ‘sexual assault by compelling sexual touching’ in sections 40 and 41 of the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic).

[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.

[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, imprisonment combined with a community correction order, partially suspended sentences, aggregate imprisonment and restricted involuntary treatment orders (hospital orders).

[7] Suspended sentences have been abolished in the higher courts for all offences committed on or after 1 September 2013 and in the Magistrates’ Court for all offences committed on or after 1 September 2014.

[8] Refer to Endnote 5.

[9] This total includes the people in Table 1 who received a sentence of imprisonment, aggregate imprisonment and a combined sentence of imprisonment with a community correction order.

[10] Data presented in this section does 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 2011–12 to 2015–16 period, 2 people received an aggregate form of imprisonment.

[11] A total of 10 people were not eligible to have a non-parole period fixed because they were given a total effective sentence length of less than 1 year.

[12] One person was 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 this case.  The non-parole period for this person is excluded from the analysis.  A non-parole period was not set for 4 people who were eligible for a non-parole period.