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4513.0 - Criminal Courts, Australia, 2007-08 Quality Declaration 
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 25/02/2009   
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EXPLANATORY NOTES


INTRODUCTION

1 This publication presents information on the characteristics of defendants dealt with by Australian state and territory criminal courts. This includes information on the offences and sentences associated with those defendants.

2 Information relates to the criminal jurisdiction of the Higher (Supreme and Intermediate), Magistrates' and Children's Courts in each state and territory. The criminal jurisdiction of the courts includes the trial and sentencing of persons and organisations charged with criminal offences in Australia.

3 Information relating to criminal cases heard in the Higher Courts is available from 1995. Information about defendants finalised in the Magistrates' Courts is available from 2003-04 and in the Children's Courts from 2006-07.


DATA SOURCE

4 National statistics are derived from data about each defendant provided to the ABS by the state and territory agencies responsible for courts administration. The ABS receives data directly from these agencies in all states and territories except for Queensland (where data are supplied via the Office of Economic and Statistical Research), and New South Wales (where data are supplied via the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research).

5 In order to ensure consistency between the states and territories, the statistics have been compiled according to national standards and classifications. Standardisation of data requires the states and territories to provide data coded according to national classifications and standards.


SCOPE

6 The scope of the statistics in this publication includes all defendants who have been finalised in the Higher, Magistrates' or Children's Courts.

7 The criminal courts collection is limited to defendants finalised, that is a person or organisation for whom all charges have been formally completed so that the defendant ceases to be an item of work to be dealt with by the court.

8 The numbers of defendants finalised can be impacted by the use of diversionary programs that can be initiated by police and other agencies (pre-court) and/or by the courts themselves as part of the court process. Given a major part of the juvenile justice system is to divert young people away from the more formal justice system, the use of diversionary schemes are likely to be used more often in the Children's Courts. The types of pre-court programs include (but are not limited to) warnings (both informal and formal), cautions, police drug diversions and conferencing. Such pre-court programs can reduce the number of defendants finalised appearing in the Criminal Courts collection.

9 Some examples of court initiated programs used in the Children's Courts include:

  • Victoria - Group Conference, Ropes Program
  • Queensland - Youth Justice Conferencing, Illicit Drug Court Diversion Program
  • South Australia - Family conferences, Youth CARDS (Court Assessment and Referral Drug Scheme)
  • Western Australia - Juvenile Justice Teams, Drug Court
  • Tasmania - Court Ordered Community Conference
  • Australian Capital Territory - Restorative Justice.

10 Programs initiated by the Courts are generally grouped into two types: 'pre-adjudication' if initiated prior to hearing the facts of a case; and 'post-adjudication' if initiated once the defendant is found guilty or the defendant has entered a plea of guilty, but prior to sentencing. In addition, there are also court programs where a referral is used as a sentencing outcome. Defendants involved in programs initiated by the Courts are included in the scope of the collection and will be counted as a finalised defendant.

11 The geographic definition of Australia, as used by the ABS, includes Other Territories. However, these territories are generally out of scope for ABS collections. For the Criminal Courts data, defendants in Higher, Magistrates' and Children's Courts cases heard in the criminal courts on Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Christmas Island are included in the counts for Western Australia, where applicable. Defendants finalised in Jervis Bay Territory are not included in any counts in this publication.


Higher Courts

12 Data includes defendants finalised in the original jurisdiction of the Supreme and Intermediate Criminal Courts. Children treated as adults by the courts are included in the Higher Courts collection.


Magistrates' Courts

13 Data includes defendants finalised in the original jurisdiction of the Magistrates' Criminal Courts. Children treated as adults by the courts are included in the Magistrates' Courts collection.

14 These data include defendants finalised (i.e. a person for whom all charges have been formally completed so that the defendant ceases to be an item of work to be dealt with) in the Magistrates' Courts for all states and territories except New South Wales whose data represents finalised appearances. Therefore, where charges were finalised at different court appearances in the same case for a defendant in New South Wales, these were counted as finalised defendants at each appearance rather than being aggregated as a single finalised defendant at the latest charge finalisation date. This may result in increased counts for New South Wales.


Children's Courts

15 Data includes defendants finalised in the original jurisdiction of the Children's Criminal Courts with the exception of New South Wales whose data represents finalised appearances (as described in Magistrates' Courts above).

16 In all states and territories, children aged under 10 years cannot be charged with a criminal offence. The maximum age that defendants are considered a child or juvenile is under the age of 18 years in all states and territories, except Queensland. In Queensland, defendants are considered adults if aged 17 years and over at the time the offence was committed.


Exclusions

17 The Higher, Magistrates' and Children's Courts data exclude cases heard in the criminal jurisdiction of the courts which do not require the adjudication of charges (e.g. bail reviews and applications to amend sentences or penalties). Also excluded are breach of bail or parole cases, appeal cases, tribunal matters and defendants for whom a bench warrant is issued but not executed.

18 The Magistrates' and Children's Courts data exclude finalisations in the Drug Courts, Electronic Courts, Fine Recovery Units, Family Violence Courts and Indigenous Courts.


REFERENCE PERIOD

19 The statistics in this collection relate to defendants who had criminal cases finalised within the Higher, Magistrates' and Children's Courts during the reference period 1 July 2007 to 30 June 2008.


CLASSIFICATIONS

20 The national classifications used to collect and produce data on defendants in the Criminal Courts are:
  • Method of finalisation (see Appendix 2)
  • Australian Standard Offence Classification (ASOC) 1997 (refer to Appendix 3)
  • National Offence Index (NOI) (refer to Appendix 4) and
  • Sentence type (refer to Appendix 5).

21 The classifications provide a framework for classifying criminal court information for statistical purposes, promoting data that are compiled on a consistent basis across states and territories. The classifications have a hierarchical structure and therefore 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 states and territories.


Australian Standard Offence Classification (ASOC)

22 The ASOC provides a uniform national classificatory framework for classifying offences across Australia. The classification is hierarchical, allowing for varying degrees of detail in both coding and output (see Appendix 3).

23 Offence data have been coded to the ASOC (1997) on the basis of mappings of state/territory legislative codes undertaken by various agencies within those states and territories.

24 The second edition of the ASOC was released in August 2008 although this has yet to be implemented in the Criminal Courts collection. The complete ASOC (1997), and the second edition is available on the ABS website (cat. no. 1234.0).


National Offence Index (NOI)

25 The National Offence Index (see Appendix 4) is a ranking of all ASOC Groups and selected supplementary ASOC codes (ASOC Divisions and/or ASOC Subdivisions). This ranking is based on the concept of seriousness, with a ranking of 1 relating to the ASOC code containing the most serious offence.

26 The assumptions and rules underpinning the NOI, in particular defining 'offence seriousness' and the impact of this definition on the ranking of offences, need to be considered when using the principal offence data in this publication. However, it is important to note that these technical issues are only of practical significance where a choice must be made between output categories. For example, although some sexual assault and related offences are ranked ahead of illicit drug and related offences, they are unlikely to co-occur. For further information regarding the development of the NOI please refer to Appendix 5 in Criminal Courts, Australia, 2001-02 (cat. no. 4513.0). This classification is currently under review following the release of the second edition of ASOC.


NATIONAL CRIMINAL COURTS DATA DICTIONARY

27 A data dictionary is an agreed set of classifications and standards that is accepted as the authoritative source for a particular area of statistics. The National Criminal Courts Data Dictionary, Version 1, 2005 (cat. no. 4527.0) has been developed by the National Criminal Courts Statistics Unit (NCCSU) of the ABS in collaboration with key stakeholders. It is a reference document which defines national data items and outlines methods for the use of 27 data elements and concepts that underpin the ABS and Council of Australian Governments (COAG) criminal courts collections. Version 1 of the data dictionary relates to the Higher and Magistrates' Criminal Courts. The National Criminal Courts Data Dictionary can be accessed via the ABS website.


COUNTING METHODOLOGY

Counting unit

28 The principal counting unit for the Criminal Courts collection is a finalised defendant. A defendant is a person or organisation against whom one or more criminal charges have been laid and which are heard together as the one unit of work by a court at a particular level. It should be noted that the Criminal Courts collection does not enumerate unique persons or organisations. If a person or organisation is a defendant in a number of criminal cases dealt with and finalised separately within the courts during the reference period, this person or organisation will be counted more than once within that reference period.

29 Some courts operate programs which transfer defendants to drug and other specialist courts for finalisation (these defendants are counted as finalised by transfer in the Criminal Court level that recommended the transfer), and other programs where upon completion of the program the defendant returns to the Criminal Court that requested the transfer.


Method of finalisation

30 Method of finalisation describes how a criminal charge is concluded by a criminal court level. For the purposes of the Criminal Courts collection, one method of finalisation is applied to each defendant within the Higher, Magistrates' and Children's Courts.

31 Previously, a bench warrant issued was considered a method of finalisation. However, this is no longer considered a method of finalisation for a defendant in the Higher Courts and has been excluded from counts in this publication. As bench warrants are treated as a continuation of a defendants' case, this will impact on the duration of that case i.e. time elapsed from date of initiation to date of finalisation. This aligns with the Magistrates' Courts and Children's Courts collections which do not include a bench warrant issued as a method of finalisation. Once a bench warrant has been executed and the outstanding (and new) charges have been determined, the defendant is regarded as being finalised (by a method of finalisation other than a bench warrant being issued) and is included in data for the relevant reference period in which the defendant is finalised.

32 Defendants who are referred to a Mental Health Review Tribunal (e.g. for determination of fitness for trial) are not considered to be finalised.


Transfer between Higher Court levels

33 Defendants who transfer from one Higher Court level to another Higher Court level are considered as initiated only once (in the level they first entered) and finalised only once (from the level they finally left).


Transfer between Magistrates' and Higher Court levels

34 Defendants who transfer from the Magistrates' Court level to the Higher Court level (or vice versa) are considered as initiated twice (once in each of these levels) and finalised twice (once in each level). Defendants may have some charges finalised in the Magistrates' Courts whilst other charges are committed to the Higher Courts. A defendant in this situation would be counted in the Magistrates' Courts data and the Higher Courts data.


Transfers between the Children's Courts and the Magistrates' or Higher Courts

35 Defendants who transfer between the Children's Courts and the Magistrates' or Higher Courts (or vice versa) are considered to be initiated twice (once in each court level) and finalised twice (once in each court level).


Higher Courts

36 Where a defendant finalised in a Higher Court has multiple charges and these have different methods of finalisation, the defendant method of finalisation code is determined by the following order of precedence:
  • defendant deceased
  • unfit to plead
  • not guilty by reason of mental illness/condition
  • guilty finding by court
  • charge proven n.f.d.
  • guilty plea by defendant
  • acquitted by court
  • charge unproven n.f.d.
  • charge unproven n.e.c.
  • transfer from a Higher Court to a Magistrates' Court
  • other transfer between court levels n.e.c.
  • transfer to non-court agency
  • withdrawn by the prosecution
  • other non-adjudicated finalisation n.e.c.
  • unknown/not stated.


Magistrates' Courts

37 Where a defendant finalised in a Magistrates' Court has multiple charges and these have different methods of finalisation, the defendant method of finalisation code is determined by the following order of precedence:
  • defendant deceased
  • unfit to plead
  • not guilty by reason of mental illness/condition
  • guilty finding by court
  • charge proven n.f.d.
  • guilty plea by defendant
  • guilty ex-parte
  • acquitted by court
  • charge unproven n.f.d.
  • no case to answer at committal
  • charge unproven n.e.c.
  • committed for trial
  • transfer from a Magistrates' Court to a Higher Court n.f.d.
  • committed for sentence
  • transfer from a Magistrates' Court to a Higher Court n.e.c.
  • other transfer between court levels n.e.c.
  • transfer to non-court agency
  • withdrawn by the prosecution
  • other non-adjudicated finalisation n.e.c.
  • unknown/not stated.


Children's Courts

38 Where a defendant finalised in a Children's Court has multiple charges and these have different methods of finalisation, the defendant method of finalisation code is determined by the following order of precedence:
  • defendant deceased
  • unfit to plead
  • not guilty by reason of mental illness/condition
  • guilty finding by court
  • charge proven n.f.d.
  • guilty plea by defendant
  • guilty ex-parte
  • acquitted by court
  • charge unproven n.f.d.
  • no case to answer at committal
  • charge unproven n.e.c.
  • committed for trial
  • transfer from a Children's Court to a Higher court n.f.d.
  • committed for sentence
  • transfer from a Children's Court to a Higher court n.e.c.
  • transfer from a Children's Court to a Magistrates' Court
  • other transfer between court levels n.e.c
  • transfer to non-court agency
  • withdrawn by the prosecution
  • other non-adjudicated finalisation n.e.c.
  • unknown/not stated.


Merging counting units

39 Where a person or organisation 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. This merging rule is used for defendants finalised in the Higher, Magistrates' and Children's Courts.


Principal offence

40 Prior to 2007-08, principal offence was only calculated for adjudicated defendants. Principal offence rules have now been extended to include non-adjudicated and transferred defendants.

41 Where a finalised defendant has multiple charges and these have different methods of finalisation, the principal offence is determined by the type of finalisation and the most serious offence within that type of finalisation using both the ASOC and NOI classifications. The type of finalisation is considered in the following order:
  • Defendant deceased, unfit to plead, or not guilty by reason of mental illness
  • Charges proven
  • Charges not proven
  • Transfer of charges
  • Charges withdrawn
  • Other non-adjudicated finalisation
  • Unknown/not stated

42 For a defendant with multiple charges and only some are proven (resulting from a guilty verdict, guilty plea or guilty ex-parte), the principal offence is selected only from those charge(s) where proof of guilt has been established. For acquitted defendants, the principal offence is selected from the charge(s) not proven.

43 Where a defendant has a single charge within the type of finalisation (e.g. charges proven, charges not proven, transfer of charges etc.), the principal offence is the relevant ASOC code (see paragraphs 22-24) associated with that charge.

44 Where a defendant has several offences, each with the same type of finalisation, for example, the defendant has been found guilty of all charges, the principal offence is selected from those charges with same type of finalisation - that is proven guilty. The NOI is used to determine the principal offence. The principal offence is determined as the charge with the highest ranked ASOC Group in the NOI. Where the defendant has an offence that is unable to determined via the NOI (due to missing offence information or the offence is mapped to an ASOC code that is not included in the NOI), and this offence cannot be determined as more or less serious than another offence within the same type of finalisation, the principal offence is coded to 'not able to be determined'. For more information about the NOI see paragraphs 25-26.

45 Prior to 2007-08, principal offence was only available for adjudicated defendants. Principal offence is now available for all finalised defendants.


Principal sentence

46 Defendants who are proven guilty have sentence information reported against them at the defendant level. This is usually, though not necessarily, the sentence associated with the principal offence. A defendant can receive a single sentence for a single offence proven guilty, a single sentence for multiple offences proven guilty, multiple sentences for multiple offences proven guilty and/or multiple sentences assigned to the one offence proven guilty. Where a defendant has multiple sentences, the principal sentence is selected by applying the hierarchy of the Sentence Type Classification (see Appendix 5).

47 It should be noted that not all sentence types are available to magistrates and judges in all jurisdictions. For example, in the Higher Courts, all states and territories with the exception of Western Australia have provision for the use of partially suspended sentences. Whether a sentencing option is available in a particular state/territory and court level should be considered when making comparisons.

48 Defendants with a method of finalisation of 'not guilty by reason of mental illness/condition' (an acquitted outcome) may have a specific kind of sentence or order imposed on them by the court. However, these sentences are not within the scope of the Criminal Courts as the definition of principal sentence, for the purpose of this collection, is that it only applies to defendants with a method of finalisation of proven guilty.


COMPARABILITY

49 Caution should be exercised when comparing 2006-07 Children's Courts data to earlier years as data prior to this period was deemed experimental and may not be strictly comparable.

50 The Criminal Courts collection has been designed to facilitate comparisons over time and across states and territories through the application of common national statistical standards. However, some legislative and processing differences may limit the degree to which the statistics are comparable across the states and territories. 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. See paragraphs 59-93 for specific state and territory issues.


REVISIONS

51 The count of defendants finalised for South Australia Children's Criminal Court has been revised upwards for 2006-07 resulting in approximately 400 finalised additional defendants that were previously omitted (see paragraph 75). Revisions were also made upwards to the 2006-07 finalised defendant counts in all court levels for Queensland for the same reason (see paragraph 68).


COMPARISONS TO NON-ABS SOURCES

52 Due to differing scope and counting rules the data in this publication may not be comparable to data published in other national and state/territory publications.


Report on Government Services

53 The Report on Government Services, commissioned by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), was established to provide information on the performance of Australian and state and territory government services. The Report releases data annually on the efficiency and effectiveness of the administration of the courts, sourcing data from the Court Administration Data Collection (CADC) on a financial year basis.

54 The focus of the CADC is on the administration of the courts, including workload and financial information, while the ABS Criminal Courts collection has a social theme, painting a picture of the characteristics of defendants, including information on the offences and sentence types associated with those defendants. Whilst the classifications and standards for both collections are the same, some of the counting rules are different which result in different counts of the population.

Finalised defendant

55 For both collections a finalised defendant is defined as follows: 'A person or organisation for which all charges relating to the one case have been formally completed so that the defendant ceases to be an item of work to be dealt with by the courts'. However, the number of defendants will vary between the ABS and CADC collections due to the following. For the ABS Criminal Courts collection, data are further aggregated to create a 'merged finalised defendant'. The rule is: if a defendant has more than one case, which is 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. This method of aggregation will result in a lower count of defendants finalised and longer durations in the ABS collection than in the CADC collection.

Transfers between intermediate and supreme court levels

56 Further differences exist as a result of different counting rules for the transfer of defendants for some court levels. The CADC counts defendants who transfer between higher court levels (e.g. from an Intermediate Court to a Supreme Court), as finalised in both the court level they left and in the new court level they entered. For the purposes of the ABS Criminal Courts collection, defendants who transfer from one higher court level to another will be considered as finalised only once (from the level they finally left). As a result, the combined Intermediate and Supreme court data in the Report on Government Services will not equate to the ABS Higher Courts data.

Duration

57 Different counting rules for duration counts will also result in lower ABS figures for this item compared with the CADC collection. The ABS Criminal Courts collection calculates duration for a defendant as the time taken in days from the date of initiation to the date of finalisation of the defendant's case.
i.e. Duration = Date of Finalisation - Date of Initiation + 1.

58 From 2004, the CADC has introduced the backlog index which is calculated using the duration of active pending matters (i.e. a lodgment which is yet to be finalised but which is part of the case management of court administrators). The formula used is as follows:
No. of cases older than applicable reporting standard x 100 / Total pending caseload.


STATE/TERRITORY EVENTS / SPECIFIC ISSUES

59 The following information highlights events or processes unique to a state/territory that may have an impact on the data for this collection. This may include information on recording practices and changes to legislation supplied by each state/territory.


New South Wales

60 New South Wales Higher Courts data for January to June 2008 has been sourced from a new computer system and should be considered preliminary in nature. A combination of incomplete records and unidentifiable out-of-scope records is thought to have affected the quality and coverage of the 2007-08 New South Wales Higher Courts data included in this publication. It is anticipated that duration of cases finalised may be most affected. Caution should be used when making comparisons of data movements between 2007-08 and earlier years.

61 Prior to 2006-07, defendants discharged under the Mental Health (Criminal Procedure) Act 1990 were included in the non-adjudicated population as 'unfit to plead'. Defendants with this method of finalisation are now correctly appearing as acquitted 'by reason of mental illness/condition' from 2006-07. Therefore, the number of acquittals prior to 2006-07 were undercounted for New South Wales and the number of other non-adjudicated finalisations were overstated. In 2006-07, 1,501 (21%) of the acquitted defendants were finalised through discharge for mental health reasons.


Victoria

62 For the first time in 2006-07, data on principal offence in the Magistrates' and Children's Courts of Victoria have been provided based on the standard national counting rules. Prior to this, principal offence has been calculated using the main charge at initiation, rather than at finalisation. While the differences are expected to be minimal, some caution should be used in making comparisons of small data movements between 2005-06 and 2006-07.

63 Deception and related offences includes fare evasions processed through the Children's courts. Victoria processed a large number of backlogs of fare evasions through the Children's Court during 2006-07, resulting in a higher number of defendants finalised. Approximately 5,900 defendants finalised had a principal offence of fare evasion in 2006-07. From December 2008 most fare evasions have been dealt with in a new Children and Young Persons Infringement Notice System (CAYPINS) rather than through the Children's Courts.

64 Errors were encountered in some data prior to 2005-06, resulting in changes to the application of some national counting rules. These changes caused some minor movements in the principal offence data item in the 2005-06 data and therefore historical comparisons should be made with caution. In particular, abduction and related offences are over counted prior to 2005-06.

65 From July 2005 the Children and Young Persons (Age Jurisdiction) Act 2004 was implemented increasing the age jurisdiction of the Criminal Division of the Children's Court from 17 years to 18 years. The definition of a child was amended as follows: 'in the case of a person who is alleged to have committed an offence, a person who at the time of the alleged commission of the offence was under the age of 18 years, but of or above the age of 10 years, but does not include any person who is of or above the age of 19 years when a proceeding for the offence is commenced in the Court'. This change led to an increase in the number of defendants heard in the Children's Courts and a decrease in the number of defendants heard in the Magistrates' Courts.

66 Offence and sentence data for adjudicated defendants in the Higher Courts are derived from two sources. For defendants with offences proven guilty, the offence and sentence information is derived from the Higher Courts sentencing database. These data are then matched to the defendant records obtained from the primary source, the courts listing systems for Victorian Higher Courts. In some cases it is not possible to match sentence records with the primary records, as there is incomplete coverage of defendants proven guilty in the Victorian Higher Courts sentencing database, therefore offence and sentence information is not available for all defendants for this court level.


Queensland

67 Between 2006-07 and 2007-08, there was a large increase in the number of road vehicle registration and roadworthiness offences finalised in the Magistrates' Courts. Various initiatives resulting out of the 2006 Premier's Road Safety Summit have impacted of the number of road traffic and motor vehicle offences. In particular on 1 July 2007 the Queensland Police Service commenced a vehicle impoundment trial in some areas of the state. Many driving offences which would have previously been dealt with by the issuing of a traffic offence notice are now dealt with through the Magistrates' Court. This trial was extended state-wide on 1 July 2008 so even larger increases in the number of these offences finalised in the Magistrates' Courts are anticipated in the next financial year.

68 An undercount of finalised defendants was identified in the 2006-07 and 2005-06 Queensland data for all court levels. This issue has now been rectified and data has been revised for the 2006-07 reference period (increasing Queensland finalised defendant counts by 2% in the Higher Courts, 2% in the Magistrates' Courts and 8% in the Children's Courts). Data was unable to be revised for 2005-06 therefore caution should be used when making comparisons to prior years.

69 An error in the calculation of duration in the Queensland Higher Courts data was identified and the method corrected to comply with national counting rules. This error was significant, therefore duration data for Queensland prior to 2006-07 should not be compared as the calculation used resulted in inflated durations for durations up to 26 weeks and shorter durations over 26 weeks.

70 During 2004-05, Queensland's finalised defendant populations for the Higher, Magistrates' and Children's Criminal Courts were undercounted. This small undercount occurred due to an internal business process that resulted in a lag in the verification of finalised defendant records included in data supplied to the ABS. Revised 2004-05 data for Queensland was included in the 2005-06 publication. It is likely that data published prior to 2004-05 for Queensland also contains an undercount. The size of undercount in prior years is unknown. As a result, caution should be taken when making historical comparisons with 2004-05 and 2005-06 data.

71 Due to a change in business processes, 'assault police' and 'resist/hinder police' offences are not able to be disaggregated in the 2004-05 revised and 2005-06 Magistrates' Criminal Courts data for Queensland. Where a defendant was adjudicated after February 2005 for either an assault police offence or a resist or hinder police officer offence, the offence level ASOC codes for both these offences were coded to ASOC group 1522 (resist or hinder police officer or justice official). Assault police should be recorded in ASOC Division 2. This has resulted in a slight undercount of defendants with offences coded to ASOC Division 2 and a slight overcount in ASOC Division 15 for Queensland 2004-05 revised data.

72 During 2005-06, a review of local processes used to compile data for the ABS was undertaken. As a result, some errors were identified in the application of counting rules and local offence code mappings to the ASOC. These anomalies were rectified in the 2004-05 data. Historical comparisons prior to 2004-05 should be made with caution, particularly for principal offence.

73 From July 2004 to February 2005, suspended sentences in the Higher Courts relating to Cairns, Townsville, Rockhampton and Brisbane were incorrectly categorised as imprisonment orders leading to imprisonment with a determined term being overstated and fully suspended sentences being understated.

74 Prior to January 2005, some suspended sentences were incorrectly categorised as imprisonment orders leading to imprisonment with a determined term being overstated and fully suspended sentences being understated in the Magistrates' Courts.


South Australia

75 In the Children's Courts, data has been revised for 2006-07. Data for 2006-07 was previously understated due to the omission of approximately 400 records relating to defendants transferred to family conferences, which are in scope of this collection. The revisions impact on the counts of defendants transferred to other court levels and the total defendants finalised for this state.

76 Caution should be exercised when comparing finer custodial order counts prior to 2007-08 as some of these counts have been miscoded between categories. For 2006-07, custody in the community are understated, while fully suspended sentence counts are overstated. This is due to the partial miscoding of intensive corrections orders as fully suspended sentences, rather than custody in the community. Intensive corrections orders were all incorrectly coded to fully suspended sentences prior to 2006-07, resulting in an overcount of this offence type and no data for custody in the community.

77 During 2006-07, there had been an increase in the number of sexual assault cases heard within the District Court. The Mulligan Inquiry resulted in increased reporting to police of sexual assault offences committed prior to 1983, resulting in increases of defendants appearing before the courts.

78 Prior to 2005-06, court costs/levies had been incorrectly included as a sentence type. The removal of these post this period has resulted in a decrease in defendants with a principal sentence of 'other monetary orders n.e.c' and increases in some other non-custodial sentence categories for South Australia.


Western Australia

79 Data for aggravated sexual assault and non-assaultive sexual offences are understated and overstated respectively for 2006-07 and 2007-08 due to errors in the application of codes for these offence types. Data for these detailed offence categories in 2006-07 and 2007-08 should not be compared with previous years. The total sexual assault and related offences ASOC division has not been impacted.

80 Western Australian Higher Courts defendants with sex unknown or not stated increased from 3% of finalised defendants in 2006-07 to 10% the following year. In 2007-08, these defendants accounted for 99% of defendants with unknown sex in this court level across Australia.

81 Data relating to custody in the community were incorrectly coded between 2003-04 and 2005-06, resulting in an overcount for this sentence type. All of these data should have been coded to community supervision or work orders as they comprised probation orders. Some probation orders may have also been coded to fully suspended sentences for these same years, resulting in a potential overcount for this sentence type.

82 The jurisdiction of the Children's Court in WA allows magistrates to hear all offences, whether indictable or summary, and to apply both adult and juvenile penalties.

83 During 2004, legislative changes were implemented in Western Australia impacting on the number and types of offences that could be adjudicated in the Magistrates' Court. These changes had resulted in an increase in the number of defendants finalised in the Magistrates' Courts in Western Australia and decreased the number of defendants transferred to the Higher courts.

84 Western Australia have a higher than average proportion of defendants with a principal offence in Division 4 (dangerous or negligent acts endangering persons), and a relatively low proportion in Division 14 (road traffic and motor vehicle regulatory offences). This can be largely attributed to specific legislation in this state that stipulates that a blood alcohol limit of 0.15g/100ml leads to a driving under the influence offence, which is recorded in ASOC Division 4 (specifically, ASOC Group 0411: driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol). Other states/territories generally code drink driving offences to ASOC Division 14 (specifically group 1431: exceeding the prescribed content of alcohol limit). This difference should be taken into account when comparing differences in principal offence across states and territories.


Tasmania

85 Data prior to 2005-06 contains a slight overcount of defendants finalised for the Magistrates' and Children's Courts due to incorrect application of counting rules. Data prior to 2006-07 contain a small number of non-original matters included in the finalised defendant counts.


Northern Territory

86 In 2007-08, a data entry error in the Higher Courts resulted in the number of acquittals being overstated by 13 defendants and charges withdrawn by the prosecution being understated by the same number. This should be taken into consideration when comparing these methods of finalisation in 2007-08 with previous years. It is expected that revised data may be included in the 2008-09 publication.

87 The commencement of the Alcohol Court on 1 July 2006 has had some impact on the time taken to finalise matters in the Magistrates' Court. These matters often involve several court appearances to gather information from service providers.

88 The introduction of the Youth Justice Court (Youth Justice Act) 2007 allows for referral of a youth to diversion or youth justice conferencing which may impact on the time taken for defendants to be dealt with by the Children's Court. This Act also allows for pre-sentencing conferences which may impact on the time taken for defendants to be dealt with.

89 Incorrect application of counting rules resulted in revisions to data in 2004-05. Data prior to this period should be used with caution, particularly principal offence.


Australian Capital Territory

90 For 2007-08, some road traffic offences in the Magistrates' and Children's Court were incorrectly coded to ASOC 0411 (driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs) instead of ASOC 1431 (exceeding the prescribed content of alcohol limit). Based on historical proportions for these principal offences we estimate that over 500 defendants in the Magistrates' Courts and over 30 defendants in the Children's Courts have been miscoded. The data provider has advised that coding for this offence was incorrect for 2007-08 data only and has been corrected for future cycles. Comparisons over time should therefore not be made with these ASOC Divisions for the ACT.

91 From 2007-08, community service orders imposed with a fully suspended sentence are now coded correctly to 'intensive corrections orders'; in previous years this sentence type was coded to 'fully suspended sentence'.

92 For 2006-07, the principal sentence type 'orders as recompense to victim' has been reported separately and included in the Higher Courts data. This sentence type had previously been coded to 'monetary orders n.f.d'. There is no impact on time series data, as monetary orders are not disaggregated to this level.

93 There was a significant increase in defendants finalised in the Magistrates' Courts data between 2004-05 and 2005-06 due to two main factors: a large number of old defendant records in the Magistrates' Courts were finalised; and a territory election during the reference period resulted in a large number of defendants being adjudicated for failure to vote offences.


CONFIDENTIALITY OF TABULAR DATA

94 Table cells containing small values have been randomly adjusted to avoid releasing confidential information. Due to this randomisation process, totals may vary slightly across tables.


RELATED PUBLICATIONS

ABS publications

95 ABS publications which may be of interest include:
96 Current publications and other products released by the ABS are listed on the ABS website. The ABS also issues a daily Release Advice on the website which details products to be released in the week ahead. The National Centre for Crime and Justice Statistics (NCCJS) releases a newsletter titled Crime and Justice News (cat. no. 4500.0) that is published on the ABS website, and emailed to subscribers of the NCCJS electronic mailing list. The NCCJS can be contacted by email through <crime.justice@abs.gov.au>.


Non-ABS publications

97 Non-ABS sources of criminal court statistics which may be of interest include:
  • ACT Department of Justice and Community Safety, Annual Report
  • Australian Institute of Criminology, List of Publications <http://www.aic.gov.au>
  • Chief Justice of Western Australia, Annual Review
  • Children's Court, Queensland, Annual Report
  • Children's Court of Victoria, Annual Report
  • County Court of Victoria, Annual Report
  • Courts Administration Authority, South Australia, Annual Report
  • Crime Research Centre, University of Western Australia, Crime and Justice Statistics for Western Australia
  • Department of Justice, Northern Territory, Annual Report
  • Department of Justice, Victoria, Annual Report
  • Department of the Attorney General, Western Australia, Annual Report
  • Department of Justice and Attorney-General, Queensland, Annual Report
  • Department of Justice, Tasmania, Department of Justice Annual Report
  • Director of Public Prosecutions, Annual Report, all State, Territory and Commonwealth Offices of the Director of Public Prosecutions
  • District Court of Queensland, Annual Report
  • District Court of Western Australia, Annual Report
  • Local Court of New South Wales, Annual Review
  • Magistrates' Court of Tasmania, Annual Report
  • Magistrates' Court, Queensland, Annual Report
  • Magistrates' Court of Victoria, Annual Report
  • NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, New South Wales Criminal Courts Statistics
  • Office of Crime Statistics and Research, South Australia, Crime and Justice in South Australia: Adult Courts and Corrections
  • Office of Crime Statistics and Research, South Australia, Crime and Justice in South Australia: Juvenile Justice
  • Office of Economic and Statistical Research, Crime and Justice Statistics Queensland
  • Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision, Report on Government Services
  • Supreme Court of Queensland, Annual Report
  • Supreme Court of Victoria, Annual Report
  • Supreme Court of Tasmania, Annual Report


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