Population, Crime and Courts: Demographic Projections of the Future Workload of the New South Wales Magistracy
(2014) 23(4) Journal of Judicial Administration (Forthcoming)
37 Pages Posted: 5 Mar 2014
Date Written: March 5, 2014
The New South Wales Local Court is the largest court in Australia. This study seeks to facilitate future planning for the Court by making demographic projections of the criminal workload of the Court over the next 25 years (criminal matters account for 95 per cent of its new lodgements). The study applies criminal conviction rates by age, sex and locality to population projections for the state to produce projections of the number of criminal convictions for the state and its geospatial subdivisions. These statistics are used to derive the demand for magistrates and a comparison is then made of the supply of magistrates under different scenarios. The principal finding is that, due to demographic change alone, the number of criminal convictions is projected to increase by 16 per cent by 2036, with nearly all the increase occurring in Sydney, especially in the city’s west and south west. This is less than the projected 26 per cent increase in the population of the state because the positive impact of population growth on criminal convictions is partly offset by the reduction in the proportion of young adults in the population, where criminal conviction rates are highest. On the assumption of constant criminal conviction rates and constant judicial productivity, the demand for magistrates is also projected to rise by 16 per cent, to 158 magistrates by 2036. If recruitment of magistrates were to take place only in accordance with historic trends, there would be a shortfall of 10.5 magistrates over the projection period. Thus, if the Local Court is to have sufficient judicial resources to meet the projected demand for its services, government will need to be attentive to the potential for a growing gap between demand and supply in the years ahead.
Keywords: Applied demography, Australia, caseload, courts, crime rates, criminal convictions, demand and supply, Local Court, magistrates, New South Wales, population projections, productivity, workload
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