What is behind the fall in the number of Aboriginal young people in custody?
Neil Donnelly1, Stephanie Ramsey1, Suzanne Poynton1, Jackie Fitzgerald1
1NSW Bureau Of Crime Statistics And Research
Aim: To examine factors contributing to the downward trend in the number of Aboriginal young people in custody in NSW.
Method: Young people in custody data was obtained from Youth Justice. Data on how young people aged 10-17 years were proceeded against was obtained from the NSW Police Force. The Court Data Warehouse (CDW) was used to obtain information about police and court bail refusal as well as breach of bail proceedings and bail revocation. Children’s Court and higher courts data were obtained for young people aged 10-18 years. Five-year trends were conducted using Kendall’s rank order correlation test.
Results: Between 2015 and 2019 the average daily number of Aboriginal young people in custody declined from 161 to 121. The number of Aboriginal young people aged 10-17 years proceeded against to court by the police declined from 3,685 in 2015 to 3,324 in 2019. While there was an increase in the proportion of young Aboriginal people refused bail by police (from 34% to 41%) the percentage refused by the court remained stable (21%). While there was an increase in breach of bail established against Aboriginal young people from 845 to 1,082, the percentage of bail revocations declined from 38% to 23%. There was a decline in the number and proportion of young Aboriginal young people aged 10-18 years sentenced to a control order in the Children’s Court or a higher court. This was due to fewer being convicted in court, dropping from 2,896 to 2,198, and a fall in the percentage receiving a control order from 14% to 10%. Among non-Aboriginal young people, the number of convictions and the percentage receiving a control order remained stable.
Conclusion: The recent drop in the number of young Aboriginal people in custody appears to be due to a decline in the number of Aboriginal young people appearing in court and fewer control orders being imposed.
Neil Donnelly is a senior research officer at the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research. He is a researcher with training in psychology, applied statistics, epidemiology and public health. Neil’s background has been conducting research and program evaluation in the areas of crime and justice, public health and alcohol and illicit drug-related problems.