Sentencing Council

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2021 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.
Go to the Legal Studies 2021 HSC Exam Pack

Question 6

Victim impact statements in NSW

A. can be presented at a bail hearing.

B. are compulsory for all criminal matters.

C. can be used by a jury to determine guilt. 

D. can be presented at a sentencing hearing. *

This question addresses the topic of “the role of the victim in sentencing” within the Sentencing and Punishment process.
78.52% of candidates answering it correctly. 10.80% of candidates were distracted by (C) which indicates they have little understanding of the role of VISs within the criminal justice process.

Victim impact statements have now been asked in 2014, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021. Until this question candidates have answered it poorly on all previous occasions.

Question 11

Which of the following would be considered an aggravating factor in the sentencing of an offender for robbery?

A.  The offender’s young age

B.  The offender showed remorse

C.  The offender pleaded not guilty

D.  The use of violence by the offender *

This question addresses the topic of “factors affecting a sentencing decision: aggravating and mitigating circumstances” within the Sentencing and Punishment process.

This was the second most successfully answered question in 2021 with 85.41% of candidates answering it correctly. The main distractors were (A) with 6.22% choosing it whilst 5.75% of candidates were distracted by (C).

This shows an improvement in candidates understanding of aggravating and mitigating circumstances as questions addressing this section of the syllabus have been answered poorly in previous years.

Question 14

Which body has discretion to determine the early release of a prisoner before they complete their full sentence?

A.  NSW Police Force

B.  State Parole Authority *

C.  NSW Sentencing Council

D.  Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions

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

This question caused concerns with candidates as only 59.55% answered it correctly. The main distraction was (D) with 21.21% choosing it whilst another 15.96% of candidates were distracted by (C).

Future candidates should make sure they have a sound understanding of post sentencing and especially parole, as there would be a strong chance of it being assessed in future HSC Examinations.

Question 19

John, who is 17 years old, is charged with grievous bodily harm. He has a number of prior convictions for violent assault.

What penalty is John most likely to receive?

A.  Control order *

B.  Suspended sentence 

C.  Home detention order

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 concerns with candidates as only 60.55% answered it correctly. The main distraction was (C) with 19.15% choosing Home Detention Order whilst another 13.08% of candidates were distracted by (B).

Questions around Control Orders asked in previous years have also been answered poorly. Future candidates should make sure they have a sound understanding of Control Orders, as there would be a strong chance of it being assessed in future HSC Examinations.

Question 25

‘The legal system focuses on punishing offenders rather than preventing crime.’

Assess this statement in reference to achieving justice through criminal processes and institutions.

This was a very broad extended response question on the criminal justice system.

An assess question requires candidates to make a judgement, in this case on how well criminal processes and institutions achieve justice.

Candidates need to refer to the statement and discuss the punishment of offenders as well as crime prevention.
This question had a mean result of 7.67/15.