Sentencing Council

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​2020 HSC Legal Studies exam

Below is a breakdown of how well past Legal Studies students answered questions that related to sentencing and punishment. Answers with an asterisk are the correct answers.


Question 7

A young offender wants to appeal his conviction by a magistrate in the Children’s Court. Which court would first hear this appeal?
A. District  *
B. High
C. Local
D. Supreme

This question addresses the topic of “appeals” within the Sentencing and Punishment process but also draws knowledge from the Young Offenders section of the syllabus. Candidates also need to draw upon their knowledge on “court jurisdiction” from the Criminal Trial Process.

This question caused problems with many candidates as only 54.62% answered it correctly, with the main distractor being (C). This question highlights the need for candidates to clearly understand the jurisdiction and hierarchy of the courts.

Question 9 

While serving a custodial sentence, a murderer writes a book about her crime. She is not permitted to keep the money from the book sales.

This means that a court has made an order for

A. continued detention.
B. the payment of a fine.
C. the forfeiture of assets.  *
D. participation in a rehabilitation program.

This question addresses the topic of “types of penalties including … forfeiture of assets …” within the Sentencing and Punishment process. The majority of candidates had no difficulty with this question as 87.33% of candidates answered it correctly, with the distractors being spread across the other choices.

Question 11

What should be the last option a court considers when sentencing a young offender convicted of an offence?

A. Fine
B. Control order  *
C. Youth justice conference
D. Community service order

This question addresses the topic of “penalties for children” within the Young Offenders section of the syllabus. Candidates also need to draw upon their knowledge of “types of penalties” within the Sentencing and Punishment process.

This question caused problems with some candidates as only 67.67% answered it correctly, with the distractors being spread across the other choices. Questions around Control Orders asked in previous years have also been answered poorly.

Question 13

A man is convicted of using offensive language in a public place and the magistrate imposes a punishment of three penalty units.
This means the man
A. must pay a sum of money.  *
B. receives three demerit points.
C. must serve three days in prison.
D. receives a variety of punishments.

This question addresses the topic of “types of penalties including: … penalty units …” within the Sentencing and Punishment process.

Surprisingly this question caused problems with many candidates as only 54.24% answered it correctly, with the distractor (D) attracting 35.74% of candidates. This would indicate that many candidates didn’t understand the concept of penalty units and therefore revision of this area by future candidates would be advisable.

Question 16 

Why are there different levels of security classification for prisoners?

A. To manage prison population levels
B. To reduce the risk of reoffending on release
C. To enable an offender to be close to their family
D. To minimise the risk of harm to the offender and others  *

This question addressed the topic of “post-sentencing considerations, including security classification … ” within the Sentencing and Punishment process.

This was the second most successfully answered question in 2020 with 93.24% of candidates answering it correctly.

Question 18 

When a judge refers to the maximum penalty and the standard non-parole period in sentencing, they are

A. using judicial discretion.
B. applying judicial guidelines.
C. following statutory guidelines.  *
D. considering aggravating factors.

This question addressed the topic of “statutory and judicial guidelines” within the Sentencing and Punishment process.
This was the least successfully answered question in 2020 with only 40.54% of candidates answering it correctly. Whilst the main distractor was (B) with 31.93% of candidates choosing it, many candidates also chose (A) and (D).

Statutory and Judicial Guidelines is another area of the syllabus where candidates have answered previous questions poorly, therefore revision of this area by future candidates would be advisable.