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An Empirical Analysis of Health and Safety in Employment Sentencing in New Zealand

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Apparent inconsistency in criminal sentencing at District Court level in New Zealand (NZ) might also be expected for health and safety in employment (HSE) offences. We review relevant legislation and the guidelines established in the de Spa appeal case, and estimate a model of HSE sentencing variability distinguishing the de Spa criteria (and a subset similar to those used in the formal U.S. criminal sentencing guidelines) from a more comprehensive list of sentencing factors routinely used. When the de Spa case-mix variables are controlled for, a weak increase in inter-district sentencing variability is observed but with a reduction in intra-district variability, while both inter and intra-judge variability is mitigated. We show that a number of the de Spa (and other) criteria are significant determinants of sentencing variation, although some results (e.g., for the presence of remorse) are puzzling. The results seem quite robust to the choice between a dataset including the common s 6 offences only and a dataset of cases as a whole as well as to several other sensitivity checks. We also show that the model retrospectively predicts the sentence in the de Spa appeal case well, and suggest how the model might be used as a basis for more consistent future sentencing decisions.

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Paper provided by University of Canterbury, Department of Economics and Finance in its series Working Papers in Economics with number 09/17.

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Length: 37 pages
Date of creation: 11 Nov 2009
Handle: RePEc:cbt:econwp:09/17
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