An evaluation of the suspended sentence in South Australia

Criminology Research Council grant ; (30/76)

To undertake this research, which was recommended by the Criminal Law and Penal Methods Reform Committee of South Australia in its First Report, the Department of Correctional Services employed Ms C. E. Dengate as a temporary research officer. Ms Dengate produced a report of 192 pages entitled The Use of Suspended Sentences in South Australia together with a shorter summary. The report showed that since the power to suspend prison sentences was given to the courts in South Australia in 1969 nearly 3,000 suspended sentences had been imposed up to and including the year 1975-76. Records of 915 of these cases, all of which incorporated supervision orders, were analysed for the purpose of the research. The majority of the offences for which suspended sentences were imposed were against property, with 48.6 of the sample being convicted for theft or breaking and entering, smaller proportions of the sample were convicted for assault, false pretences, drink-driving and drug offences, with occasional cases of manslaughter, rape, carnal knowledge and robbery being found. The report discussed the difficulties of determining 'success rates' in relation to suspended sentences, and cited data relating to a sub-sample of 270 cases of which 120 had apparently completed the suspension period without difficulty, while for the remainder a variety of factors had complicated the situation. Some had been imprisoned for the non-payment of fines for other offences, a few had died and for some, breach proceedings had been initiated or considered during or after the suspension period. Others had lost contact with the supervising probation officer. This study was primarily focused on the legal and administration aspects of the operation of suspended sentences in South Australia and therefore cannot be held to have evaluated the effectiveness of this disposition.