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Court outcomes for firearm offences in Australia

Technical and background paper no. 31

Megan Davies, Jenny Mouzos
ISBN 978 1 921185 98 4 ISSN 1836-2052
Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology, June 2008

Abstract

The term 'firearm offence' captures a broad spectrum of offending behaviour, from insecure storage of firearms to use in the commission of a violent crime, and hence a similarly broad spectrum of criminal conduct. The primary legislative framework for sentencing of firearm offences is based on enacted legislation in each jurisdiction that defines specific firearm-related offences, alongside minimum and maximum penalties. While offences largely relate to use, possession, ownership, registration, purchase, sale and storage of firearms, jurisdictional variation occurs in the range and classification of these offences, and the associated statutory penalty. Judicial discretion and the relative restriction of sentencing procedures operating in different jurisdictions can further act to influence a varying regime in the type and severity of sentences handed down.

This research was undertaken in response to concerns about how effective firearm penalties are in preventing firearm-related offences. While not an evaluation of the effectiveness of penalties per se, the report examines data from New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and the Australian Customs Service, to provide an overview of the type of firearm offences commonly brought before the courts, the outcomes from these proceedings, and the severity of sentences handed down.