New Zealand Law Society - Full list of Justice Sector Seriousness Scores released

Full list of Justice Sector Seriousness Scores released

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Justice Minister Amy Adams has released a detailed list of Justice Sector Seriousness Scores.

The list has been released in response to a written parliamentary question from New Zealand First MP Darroch Ball.

A February 2017 working paper on Justice Sector Seriousness Score says they are a way of quantifying the relative seriousness of offences based on the sentences imposed for each offence.

The long and detailed list (200 pages) released by Ms Adams includes offences such as "Fails to display Carless Day Sticker" (a hangover from the fuel crisis of the early 1970s with a seriousness of 0.2621892, compared with the chart-topping "Murder" at 11901.35484), the more serious "Noisy Exhaust" (0.899100899) and a breach of the Termites Act (which is not very serious at all, at 0.085470085).

The working paper states that seriousness scores are used across the justice sector in a number of ways, including:

  • Helping to determine the "most serious offence" which is useful to summarise a court case with multiple charges or an offender in remand with multiple charges.
  • Being an input to the Department of Corrections-developed Risk of re-Conviction*Risk of re-Imprisonment Model.
  • Monitoring the effectiveness of interventions.

The paper says seriousness scores range from around 12,000 for murder to "near-zero values for minor offences" It says substantial differences in scores reflect a sensible ordering of relative seriousness (eg, murder is distinctly higher than attempted murder).

Seriousness scores for an offence are calculated as an average of the prison days (or home detention days, or statistical equivalents to prison days in community work or fines) from sentences imposed by courts. Sentences used for the average are mainly from the previous five years available (2007 to 2011 for the 2012 scores, and 2011 to 2015 for the 2016 table, which is the one released by Ms Adams).

A caveat

The working paper points out that the main general limitation users need to be aware of is imprecision.

"Seriousness scores should not be seen as unquestionable and precise measures of the seriousness of one offence versus another. Rather, they are better seen as an indicator of the relative seriousness of an offence derived from severity of sentences imposed."

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