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Special Circumstances Under s 44 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999

NCJ Number
Patrizia Poletti; Hugh Donnelly
Pauline Buckland
Date Published
June 2013
28 pages
In 1989, New South Wales (Australia) enacted Section 44 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999, which requires that the parole period of a custodial sentence not be longer than one-third of the full sentence unless the court finds that there are "special circumstances" warranting a longer period of parole supervision; the current study examines the prevalence and reasons for courts' findings of "special circumstances" during the period from January 1, 2005 and June 30, 2012.
During this period, the study determined that 91.4 percent of the 13,401 cases considered were granted longer parole supervision than the mandated one-third of the full sentence due to "special circumstances." The most common ratio between the non-parole period and the full term of the sentence was 50 percent. Four reasons for granting special circumstances were found in various combinations. The reasons were the need for a lengthy period of supervision in order to enable professional support and assistance; lack of criminal history (first incarceration); good prospects for rehabilitation; and age (young offender). The length of the overall full sentence was by far the strongest predictor of the findings of special circumstances. The longer the prison sentence (presumably reflecting the severity of the offense), the less likely were special circumstances to be granted. Most of the cases in which special circumstances were found had a full custodial sentence of 4 years or less. Data for this study were obtained from the database of the Court of Criminal Appeal. 4 tables, 6 figures, and appended explanation of the calculation of special circumstances and the ratio between the non-parole period and the term of sentence (a comparison of New South Wales and Victoria)