Sentencing Snapshot 261: Sentencing Trends for Armed Robbery in the Higher Courts of Victoria 2016-17 to 2020-21

Date of Publication

Sentencing Snapshot no. 261 describes sentencing outcomes for the offence of armed robbery in the County and Supreme Courts of Victoria from 2016-17 to 2020-21.

This is the latest Snapshot for this offence.

You can also access statistics for armed robbery on SACStat.

Authored and published by the Sentencing Advisory Council
© State of Victoria, Sentencing Advisory Council, 2021


Snapshot 261: Armed Robbery

Introduction

This Sentencing Snapshot describes sentencing outcomes[1] for the offence of armed robbery[2] in the County and Supreme Courts of Victoria (the higher courts) from 2016-17 to 2020-21.[3] Adjustments made by the Court of Appeal to sentence or conviction as at June 2021 have been incorporated into the data in this Snapshot.

Detailed data on armed robbery and other offences is available on Sentencing Advisory Council Statistics (SACStat).

A person who uses or threatens to use force in order to steal and at the time has with them a firearm, imitation firearm, offensive weapon, explosive or imitation explosive is guilty of the offence of armed robbery. Armed robbery is an indictable offence that carries a maximum penalty of 25 years’ imprisonment and/or a fine of 3,000 penalty units.[4] Armed robbery is a Category 2 offence if it was committed on or after 28 October 2018 and the offender had a firearm with them at the time of the offence, or the victim suffered an injury as a direct result of the offence, or the offence was committed in company with others.[5] Courts must impose custodial sentences for Category 2 offences except in particular circumstances.

This Snapshot focuses on cases where armed robbery was the principal offence, that is, cases where armed robbery was the offence that received the most severe sentence.[6]

Armed robbery was the principal offence in 8.6% of cases sentenced in the higher courts between 2016-17 and 2020-21.

People sentenced

From 2016-17 to 2020-21, 731 people were sentenced in the higher courts for a principal offence of armed robbery.

Figure 1 shows the number of people sentenced for the principal offence of armed robbery by financial year. The number of people sentenced was highest in 2017-18 (192 people) and lowest in 2020-21 (111 people). The decrease in the number of people sentenced for armed robbery from 137 in 2019-20 to 111 in 2020-21 was probably influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused delays in court proceedings from March 2020 and throughout the 2020-21 financial year.

Figure 1: The number of people sentenced for armed robbery by financial year

Financial Year Total
2016-17 149
2017-18 192
2018-19 142
2019-20 137
2020-21 111
Total 731

Sentence types and trends

Figure 2 shows the proportion of people who received a custodial or non-custodial sentence for the principal offence of armed robbery.

A custodial sentence involves at least some element of immediate imprisonment or detention.[7] The rate of custodial sentences was lowest in 2020-21 (85.6%) and highest in 2016-17 (90.6%). Over the five-year period, 87.1% of people were given a custodial sentence.

Figure 2: The percentage of people who received a custodial sentence and non-custodial sentence for armed robbery by financial year

Financial Year Immediate custodial sentence Non-custodial sentence
2016-17 90.6% 9.4%
2017-18 85.9% 14.1%
2018-19 87.3% 12.7%
2019-20 86.1% 13.9%
2020-21 85.6% 14.4%
Total 87.1% 12.9%

Table 1 shows the principal sentence imposed for the principal offence of armed robbery from 2016-17 to 2020-21.[8] The principal sentence is the most serious sentence imposed for the charge that is the principal offence.[9] The availability of different sentence types has changed over time. Most notably, wholly and partially suspended sentences have now been abolished for offences committed after a certain date.[10] Changes to community correction orders may have also influenced the sentencing trends over the five years covered by this Snapshot.[11]

Over the five-year period, more than three-quarters of all people sentenced for armed robbery as the principal offence received a principal sentence of imprisonment (79.3% or 580 of 731 people). The rate of imprisonment sentences was highest in 2018-19 (83.8%) and lowest in 2017-18 (76.0%).

Table 1: The number and percentage of people sentenced for armed robbery by principal sentence type and financial year

Sentence type 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20 2020-21 Total (2016-17 to 2020-21)
Imprisonment 124 (83.2%) 146 (76.0%) 119 (83.8%) 106 (77.4%) 85 (76.6%) 580 (79.3%)
Community correction order 13 (8.7%) 26 (13.5%) 16 (11.3%) 18 (13.1%) 14 (12.6%) 87 (11.9%)
Youth justice centre order 11 (7.4%) 19 (9.9%) 6 (4.2%) 12 (8.8%) 10 (9.0%) 58 (7.9%)
Other 1 (0.7%) 1 (0.5%) 1 (0.7%) 1 (0.7%) 0 (0.0%) 4 (0.5%)
Fine 0 (0.0%) 0 (0.0%) 0 (0.0%) 0 (0.0%) 2 (1.8%) 2 (0.3%)
Total people sentenced 149 192 142 137 111 731

Principal and total effective sentences of imprisonment

The principal sentence describes sentences for the offence at a charge level (as described in the previous section). The total effective sentence describes sentences at a case level.

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

Therefore, where a case involves multiple charges, the total effective sentence imposed on a person is sometimes longer than the principal sentence. Principal sentences for armed robbery must be considered in this broader context.

The following sections analyse the use of imprisonment for the offence of armed robbery from 2016-17 to 2020-21.

Principal sentence of imprisonment

Table 2 shows that a total of 580 people received a principal sentence of imprisonment for armed robbery. Of these, 517 (89.1%) received a non-aggregate term of imprisonment and 63 people received an aggregate term.[12] There were 148 people who received a community correction order in addition to their term of imprisonment.

Table 2: The number and percentage of people sentenced to imprisonment for armed robbery by sentence type and financial year

Type of imprisonment sentence 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20 2020-21 Total (2016-17 to 2020-21)
Imprisonment 88 (71.0%) 111 (76.0%) 84 (70.6%) 68 (64.2%) 55 (64.7%) 406 (70.0%)
Mix (imprisonment and community correction order) 21 (16.9%) 21 (14.4%) 19 (16.0%) 27 (25.5%) 22 (25.9%) 110 (19.0%)
Mix (imprisonment, community correction order and fine) 0 (0.0%) 0 (0.0%) 1 (0.8%) 0 (0.0%) 0 (0.0%) 1 (0.2%)
Total non-aggregate imprisonment 109 (87.9%) 132 (90.4%) 104 (87.4%) 95 (89.6%) 77 (90.6%) 517 (89.1%)
Aggregate imprisonment 9 (7.3%) 6 (4.1%) 5 (4.2%) 3 (2.8%) 3 (3.5%) 26 (4.5%)
Mix (aggregate imprisonment and community correction order) 6 (4.8%) 8 (5.5%) 10 (8.4%) 8 (7.5%) 5 (5.9%) 37 (6.4%)
Total aggregate imprisonment 15 (12.1%) 14 (9.6%) 15 (12.6%) 11 (10.4%) 8 (9.4%) 63 (10.9%)
Total people sentenced to imprisonment 124 146 119 106 85 580

Figure 3 shows the length of imprisonment for the 517 people who received a non-aggregate term. Imprisonment terms ranged from 4 days to 10 years,[13] while the median length of imprisonment was 3 years (meaning that half of the imprisonment terms were below 3 years and half were above).

The most common range of imprisonment terms was 3 to less than 4 years (146 people).

Figure 3: The number of people sentenced to imprisonment for armed robbery by length of imprisonment term, 2016-17 to 2020-21

Imprisonment length Number of people
Less than 1 year 71
1 to less than 2 years 79
2 to less than 3 years 92
3 to less than 4 years 146
4 to less than 5 years 76
5 to less than 6 years 30
6 to less than 7 years 13
7 to less than 8 years 3
8 to less than 9 years 6
9 to less than 10 years 0
10 to less than 11 years 1
Total 517

Figure 4 shows that the average length of imprisonment imposed on people sentenced for armed robbery decreased from 3 years and 1 month in 2016-17 to 2 years and 3 months in 2020-21. Over the five years, the average length of imprisonment for armed robbery was 2 years and 10 months.

Figure 4: The average length of imprisonment imposed on people sentenced for armed robbery, by financial year

Financial year Number of people Average length of imprisonment term
2016-17 109 3 years and 1 month
2017-18 132 3 years and 1 month
2018-19 104 2 years and 9 months
2019-20 95 2 years and 7 months
2020-21 77 2 years and 3 months

Other offences finalised at the same hearing

Sometimes people prosecuted for armed robbery face multiple charges, which are finalised at the same hearing. This section looks at the range of offences that offenders were sentenced for alongside the principal offence of armed robbery.

Figure 5 shows the number of people sentenced for the principal offence of armed robbery by the total number of sentenced offences per person. The number of sentenced offences per person ranged from 1 to 49, and the median was 3 offences. There were 170 people (23.3%) sentenced for the single offence of armed robbery. The average number of offences per person was 4.2.

Figure 5: The number of people sentenced for the principal offence of armed robbery by the number of sentenced offences per person, 2016-17 to 2020-21

Number of offences Number of people
1 170
2 162
3 114
4 65
5-9 156
10-19 52
20-49 12
Total 731

Table 3 shows the 10 most common offences, by number and percentage, for people sentenced for armed robbery. The last column sets out the average number of offences sentenced per person. For example, 207 of the total 731 people (28.3%) were also sentenced for theft. On average, they were sentenced for 2.2 charges of theft per case.

Table 3: The number and percentage of people sentenced for the principal offence of armed robbery by the most common offences that were sentenced and the average number of those offences that were sentenced, 2016-17 to 2020-21

Offence Number of cases Percentage of cases Average number of proven offences per case
1. Armed robbery 731 100.0% 1.4
2. Theft 207 28.3% 2.2
3. Commit an indictable offence while on bail 169 23.1% 1.2
4. Possess a drug of dependence 76 10.4% 1.2
5. Attempted armed robbery 64 8.8% 1.4
6. Handling stolen goods 40 5.5% 1.4
7. Obtain property by deception 39 5.3% 2.1
8. Causing injury intentionally 39 5.3% 1.2
9. Intentionally damage property 38 5.2% 1.2
10. Aggravated burglary 36 4.9% 1.3
People sentenced 731 100.0% 4.2

Total effective imprisonment terms

Figure 6 shows the 580 people sentenced to imprisonment for armed robbery by length of their total effective sentence. Total effective sentences ranged from 4 days to 18 years and 2 months, while the median total effective sentence was 3 years and 4 months (meaning that half of the total effective sentences were below 3 years and 4 months and half were above).

The most common range of total effective sentences was 3 to less than 4 years (111 people).

Figure 6: The number of people sentenced to imprisonment for armed robbery by length of total effective sentence, 2016-17 to 2020-21

Total effective imprisonment length Number of people
Less than 1 year 95
1 to less than 2 years 81
2 to less than 3 years 63
3 to less than 4 years 111
4 to less than 5 years 89
5 to less than 6 years 73
6 to less than 7 years 33
7 to less than 8 years 20
8 to less than 9 years 5
9 to less than 10 years 3
10 to less than 11 years 4
11 to less than 12 years 2
12 to less than 13 years 0
13 to less than 14 years 0
14 to less than 15 years 0
15 to less than 16 years 0
16 to less than 17 years 0
17 to less than 18 years 0
18 to less than 19 years 1
Total 580

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. If the court fixes a non-parole period, the person must serve that period before becoming eligible for parole. If the court does not set a non-parole period, the person must serve the entirety of their imprisonment term in custody.

Of the 580 people who were sentenced to imprisonment for armed robbery, 485 were eligible to have a non-parole period fixed.[14] Of these people, 417 were given a non-parole period (86.0%).[15]

Figure 7 shows the number of people sentenced to imprisonment for armed robbery, by length of non-parole period. Non-parole periods ranged from 1 month to 14 years and 2 months, while the median non-parole period was 2 years and 4 months (meaning that half of the non-parole periods were below 2 years and 4 months and half were above).

The most common range of non-parole periods was 2 to less than 3 years (136 people). However, the most common outcome was that no non-parole period was imposed (163 people).

Note that it was not possible to determine the length of the non-parole period for 9 people.[16]

Figure 7: The number of people sentenced to imprisonment for armed robbery by length of non-parole period, 2016-17 to 2020-21

Non-parole period Number of people
Less than 1 year 12
1 to less than 2 years 110
2 to less than 3 years 136
3 to less than 4 years 85
4 to less than 5 years 41
5 to less than 6 years 12
6 to less than 7 years 4
7 to less than 8 years 4
8 to less than 9 years 3
9 to less than 10 years 0
10 to less than 11 years 0
11 to less than 12 years 0
12 to less than 13 years 0
13 to less than 14 years 0
14 to less than 15 years 1
Undetermined 9
No non-parole period 163
Total 580

Total effective sentences of imprisonment and non-parole periods

Figure 8 represents the 408 people who were sentenced to imprisonment for armed robbery and for whom the non-parole period could be determined. Figure 8 shows the average total effective sentence and average non-parole period for these people by financial year.

From 2016-17 to 2020-21, the average total effective sentence decreased from 4 years and 6 months in 2016-17 to 3 years and 6 months in 2020-21. Over the same period, the average non-parole period decreased from 2 years and 9 months in 2016-17 to 2 years and 1 month in 2020-21.

Figure 8: The average total effective sentence and the average non-parole period for people sentenced to imprisonment with a non-parole period for armed robbery by financial year

Financial year Average total effective sentence length Average non-parole period
2016-17 4 years and 6 months 2 years and 9 months
2017-18 4 years and 6 months 2 years and 9 months
2018-19 4 years and 5 months 2 years and 8 months
2019-20 4 years and 3 months 2 years and 7 months
2020-21 3 years and 6 months 2 years and 1 month

Further data on total effective sentences of imprisonment and corresponding non-parole periods for armed robbery is available on SACStat.

Summary

From 2016-17 to 2020-21, 731 people were sentenced for armed robbery in the higher courts. Of these people, 580 (79.3%) were given a principal sentence of imprisonment.

The number and range of offences for which people with a principal offence of armed robbery were sentenced help explain why imprisonment sentence lengths were longer for the total effective sentence than for the principal sentence. Total effective sentences ranged from 4 days to 18 years and 2 months, and non-parole periods ranged from 1 month to 14 years and 2 months. The median total effective sentence was 3 years and 4 months, while the median principal imprisonment length was 3 years.

On average, people sentenced for armed robbery were found guilty of 4.2 offences each, with a maximum of 49 offences.

Endnotes

1. This Sentencing Snapshot is an update of Sentencing Snapshot no. 236, which describes sentencing trends for armed robbery between 2014-15 and 2018-19.

2. Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) s 75A.

3. 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 was also 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 Snapshot is accurate, the data is subject to revision.

4. The value of a penalty unit changes each year and can be found in the Victorian Government Gazette and on the Victorian legislation website.

5. Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic) ss 3(da) (definition of Category 2 offence), 5(2H)-(2I).

6. 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.

7. Custodial sentences are mostly imprisonment but can also include partially suspended sentences, youth justice centre orders, hospital security orders, residential treatment orders, custodial supervision orders, and combined custody and treatment orders.

8. Principal sentence types can include 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 outcomes and in the count of people sentenced. These are not sentencing orders as they are imposed in cases in which the accused is found 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.

9. For example, if the principal offence receives a combined order of imprisonment and a community correction order pursuant to section 44 of the Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic), imprisonment is recorded as the principal sentence type.

10. 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.

11. For example, initially the maximum term of imprisonment that could be combined with a community correction order was set at 3 months, but it was increased to 2 years in September 2014 and reduced to 1 year in March 2017.

12. A court may impose an aggregate sentence of imprisonment on multiple charges sentenced at the same time. These sentences are a single term of imprisonment in which the parts of the term attributable to the individual charges are not specified. A case may include a combination of aggregate and non-aggregate sentences.

13. The 10-year prison sentence for armed robbery was imposed in DPP v Synan and Sanderson [2019] VCC 2194 (a bank robbery).

14. Ninety-five 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.

15. Sixty-eight people were eligible to have a non-parole period fixed but did not receive one. This included 65 people who had a sentence length between 1 year and less than 2 years, and 3 people who had a sentence of 2 years or more.

16. Nine people were given a non-parole period that related to more than one case (for example, they may have already been serving a prison sentence at the time). It was not possible to separately determine the non-parole periods that related to each individual case.

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