Australian Bureau of Statistics
4513.0 - Higher Criminal Courts, Australia, 2000-01
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 04/06/2002
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19 The classifications provide a framework for classifying criminal court information for statistical purposes and ensuring that data are compiled on a consistent basis across the States and Territories. The classifications are hierarchical and allow for different levels of detail to be recorded depending on the level of detail in the source information. Associated with each classification are coding rules which ensure that the counting of information is consistent across the States and Territories.
Transfer between Higher Court levels
20 Defendants who transfer from one Higher Court level to another are considered as initiated only once (in the level they first entered) and finalised only once (from the level they finally left). Transfers are taken into account when determining the proportion of active workload finalised in table 1 of the publication at the Supreme and Intermediate Court levels.
Method of initiation
21 Method of initiation describes how a criminal charge is introduced to a court level. For the purposes of the collection, only one method of initiation is applied to each defendant in the Higher Courts. Where a defendant has multiple charges and these have different methods of initiation, the code applied is determined by the following order of precedence:
22 Plea describes a defendant's formal response to a specific charge (see Glossary). A defendant's plea on each charge is entered during a court hearing and may change during the course of criminal proceedings. If a defendant has multiple charges, there may be different pleas for each charge. This collection presents an aggregated plea in which only one plea code is applied to the defendant. The rules for recording a plea are:
23 The collection records plea information at the initiation and finalisation of the case. Initial plea (in most instances the committal plea) determines the judicial process (i.e. trial or sentence) scheduled for the defendant. The final plea is the last plea to be entered in the court level and reflects the judicial process that was ultimately used for the defendant.
Method of finalisation
24 Method of finalisation describes how a criminal charge is concluded by a court level. For the purposes of the collection, only one method of finalisation is applied to each defendant within the Higher Courts. Where a defendant has multiple charges and these have different methods of finalisation, the code applied is determined by the following order of precedence:
Merging counting units
25 Where a person/corporation is a defendant in more than one case and their cases are finalised on the same date, in the same court level and in the same court location, their defendant records will be merged and counted as a single defendant record. However, merging will only occur where at least two of the following conditions are also met:
If one of these three conditions varies, the following coding rules apply:
Principal offence adjudicated
26 The scope of charges considered for the purposes of determining the principal offence adjudicated are those where the court has made a decision as to whether or not the defendant is guilty (i.e. charges that have an adjudicated method of finalisation). Thus, charges that have been transferred for hearing in another level of court, together with those that are withdrawn or dealt with by some other non-adjudicated method, are not considered for the purposes of determining the principal offence adjudicated.
27 For a defendant who has a method of finalisation of proven guilty (resulting from a guilty verdict or guilty plea), the principal offence is selected from the charge(s) proven guilty (i.e. acquitted charges are not considered). For a defendant who has a method of finalisation of acquitted, the principal offence is selected from the charge(s) acquitted.
28 Where a defendant has a single proven guilty or acquitted charge, or multiple charges that fall into the same ASOC Division, the principal offence is the relevant ASOC Division associated with the adjudicated charge(s). Where a defendant has multiple charges proven guilty or multiple charges acquitted and the ASOC Divisions corresponding to these offences are not all the same, the main charge adjudicated is determined by applying the following rules.
29 Where a defendant with a method of finalisation of proven guilty has multiple charges proven guilty and the ASOC Divisions are not the same, the principal offence is determined according to the type and/or quantum of penalty imposed by the court. In the first instance, the principal offence will be selected on the basis of the charge that has a penalty of imprisonment (see Glossary). Where more than one proven guilty charge has a penalty of imprisonment, the charge having the longest imprisonment term will be selected as the principal offence. If none of the charges proven guilty has a penalty of imprisonment, the principal offence is coded as 'not able to be determined'.
30 The rule specified in paragraph 29 will be insufficient to determine a principal offence for defendants who have two or more charges proven guilty with a penalty of imprisonment where the length of imprisonment is either the same, unknown or recorded as a global penalty. Similarly, these rules do not deal with defendants with a method of finalisation of acquitted who have multiple charges in more than one ASOC Division. For these defendants, the main adjudicated charge is determined according to the nature of the offence type. In these circumstances, the principal offence is determined according to following rules:
31 Defendants that are proven guilty have penalty type information reported against their principal offence. A defendant can have multiple penalties due to multiple offences proven guilty and/or multiple penalties assigned to the one offence. A defendant will be coded as having an imprisonment penalty if at least one of the offences proven guilty is given an imprisonment penalty (see Glossary for definition). If none of the offences proven guilty have an imprisonment penalty but the defendant has been given another type of penalty for any of the offences proven guilty, the defendant will be coded to 'other penalty type'. The defendant will be coded to 'unknown penalty type' only when there is no penalty assigned to all of the offences proven guilty or penalty data is missing for all the proven guilty offences associated with the defendant.
32 The merging of defendant records will result in adjustments to the counts of defendants pending, initiated, and finalised. Where the defendants with merged records were initiated in one reference period and finalised in the next reference period, the number of pending defendants at the end of the first period (which will include the multiple defendants whose records are later merged into one) will be higher than the number of defendants pending at the start of the next period (where only each single 'merged' defendant is counted). This will have an impact on elapsed time for pending cases and the duration of finalised cases. Differences may also arise as a result of other factors, including refinements in data quality procedures and modifications in the systems used to obtain and compile the figures.
33 The Higher Criminal Courts collection has been designed to facilitate comparisons of States and Territories through the application of common national statistical standards. However, some remaining legislative and processing differences may limit the degree to which the statistics are comparable across the State and Territories.
34 To ensure that the statistics are as reliable as possible the ABS has employed a number of measures. A range of edit checks identify any erroneous data and these are queried and resolved by the ABS in consultation with the relevant State or Territory representative. The final data are also checked against other available data sources, such as State and Territory court statistics and annual reports by the court administration agencies and the Offices of the Directors of Public Prosecutions.
35 Data quality control checks will continue to be reviewed and modified as the Higher Criminal Courts collection evolves. Data availability and quality will also improve as the States and Territories further develop and improve their court operational systems. Victorian statistical data in this publication may differ from prior and future publications for the reporting period 2000-01 due to a large data cleansing exercise undertaken in Victoria between July 2001 and September 2001.
36 The offence and penalty data included in Appendix 1 of the publication have not been subjected to the same type of validation processes that are applied to the other data presented in this publication and are thus being labelled as 'experimental'. The work undertaken by the ABS on incorporating offence and penalty information into this national collection has in the first instance concentrated on identifying the scope of charges that have been adjudicated and ensuring that these are coded to ASOC. No editing of offence data has been undertaken in terms of validating the method of finalisation and associated penalties for these charges or following up with the data providers where any information is missing or anomalies exist.
37 Offence data have been coded to ASOC on the basis of mappings of State/Territory legislative codes undertaken by various agencies within those States and Territories. The ABS has not undertaken any systematic checks to assess the quality of the ASOC coding for the charges adjudicated in the Higher Courts. Amendments to the ASOC codes have only been made in very limited cases where erroneous codes were identified as part of the edit checks applied to the final data.
38 The national counting methodology for selecting a principal offence adjudicated requires further development. It is currently not possible to determine a principal offence for some defendants who have multiple adjudicated charges belonging to different ASOC Divisions. For defendants acquitted, this mainly arises where the combination of offences does not match those described in the offence based coding rules outlined in paragraph 30. For defendants proven guilty, this mainly arises where penalties other than imprisonment have been given or where the imprisonment terms are the same or cannot be differentiated due to global sentencing. The principal offence rules will be extended to enable a principal offence to be determined for a greater proportion of defendants. For the 2000-01 data, the proportions of defendants who could not be assigned a principal offence ranged from 2% in the Northern Territory to 29% in Victoria and Tasmania.
39 The capacity to assign a principal offence code was also affected by incomplete data (e.g. missing ASOC codes and/or missing outcome information). In addition, no offence information was available for acquitted charges in Victoria (see paragraph 11). In these instances, a principal offence for the defendant could not be determined.
40 There are a few data quality issues which have impacted on the penalty data. The first issue relates to identifying those defendants who received a penalty of full-time imprisonment. While the national standards exclude fully suspended imprisonment terms, the penalty data supplied by Western Australia and the Northern Territory did not enable partially suspended sentences to be distinguished from fully suspended sentences. All suspended sentences have been included in the definition of imprisonment. As a result, for Western Australia and the Northern Territory, the figures in table A1.6 of Appendix 1 in the publication, for the category 'imprisonment' will be inflated. Secondly, for South Australia and Tasmania, the form in which the penalty data were supplied did not readily enable defendants with penalties other than imprisonment to be identified. Consequently, the categories of 'other penalty type' and 'unknown' have been treated as not available.
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This page last updated 20 June 2006