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4513.0 - Criminal Courts, Australia, 2009-10 Quality Declaration 
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/01/2011   
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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 1996. 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 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. Referral to a program is also used as a sentencing outcome. Defendants involved in programs initiated by the Courts are included in the scope of the collection and are counted when finalised.

10 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

11 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

12 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.

13 These data include defendants finalised (i.e. 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) in the Magistrates' Courts for all states and territories. Prior to 2009-10, data for the New South Wales Magistrates' Courts were based on finalised appearances rather than finalised defendants. 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 counting method resulted in slightly higher population counts for New South Wales than if the finalised defendant was counted. (see Explanatory Notes paragraphs 63-64).


Children's Courts

14 Data includes defendants finalised in the original jurisdiction of the Children's Criminal Courts. Prior to 2009-10, data for the New South Wales Children's Courts were based on finalised appearances (as described in Magistrates' Courts above).

15 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

16 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.

17 The Magistrates' and Children's Courts data exclude finalisations in specialist courts, such as Drug Courts, Electronic Courts, Fine Recovery Units, Family Violence Courts and Indigenous Courts. Defendants referred to these specialist courts from mainstream courts will be included in the mainstream Court data as transfers.


REFERENCE PERIOD

18 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 2009 to 30 June 2010.


CLASSIFICATIONS

19 The national classifications used to collect and produce data on defendants in the Criminal Courts are:

  • Australian Standard Offence Classification (ASOC) 2008 (refer to Appendix 3)
  • Method of finalisation ( Appendix 2) and
  • Sentence type (refer to Appendix 4).

20 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 available 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)

21 The offence categories used for 2009-10 national criminal courts statistics in this publication are classified to the Australian Standard Offence Classification (ASOC), 2008 (Second edition) (cat. no. 1234.0). This classification was used for the first time in the 2008-09 issue of the publication. Offence information in issues prior to 2008-09 was based on the Australian Standard Offence Classification (ASOC), 1997 (cat. no. 1234.0). ASOC provides a national framework for classifying offences for statistical purposes, and was first released in 1997. Information about the effects of changing to ASOC08 is presented in the Technical Note in the 2008-09 issue of Criminal Courts.


National Offence Index (NOI)

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

23 The NOI was revised in 2009 to accommodate the changes made in ASOC08, and supercedes the first version of NOI which was released in 2002. Offence information for 2009-10 are based on the 2009 edition of the NOI in this publication.

24 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 more information see National Offence Index, 2009 (cat. no. 1234.0.55.001).


Method of Finalisation

25 This classification categorises how a defendant has been finalised by a court. Main categories include adjudications, non-adjudications and transfers. For more information see Appendix 2 and paragraphs 30-38.


Sentence Type

26 This classification is used to assign a principal sentence to a defendant who has been proven guilty. For more information see Appendix 4 and paragraphs 45-47.


NATIONAL CRIMINAL COURTS DATA DICTIONARY

27 A data dictionary is an agreed set of classifications and standards that is accepted as the authoritative reference 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. In some cases defendants may be referred to programs where upon completion of the program the defendant returns for finalisation 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.

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 those defendants whose charges were adjudicated. Principal offence rules have now been extended to include defendants whose charges were non-adjudicated or transferred to another court level.

41 Where a finalised defendant has multiple charges the principal offence is determined by
  • the type of finalisation and/or
  • the highest ranked ASOC using the NOI.

42 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

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 (refer to paragraphs 21-22) associated with that charge.

44 Where a defendant has multiple charges, each with the same type of finalisation, for example, the defendant has been found guilty of all charges, 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 be 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 refer to paragraphs 21-24.


Principal sentence

45 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 (refer to Appendix 4).

46 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 imprisonment sentences. Whether a sentencing option is available in a particular state/territory and court level should be considered when making comparisons.

47 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.


ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER DEFENDANTS

48 This publication presents data on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander defendants for each court level in Queensland and the Northern Territory and for the Magistrates' and Children's Courts in New South Wales. Based on an ABS assessment, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander data for defendants for other jurisdictions are not of sufficient quality for national reporting in 2009-10. Further work is underway to improve the quality of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander data for Criminal Courts defendants.

49 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status is based on self-identification by the individual who comes into contact with police. The quality of the data is dependent on police asking individuals to self-identify and responses being recorded on police systems. Further, this information then needs to be transferred from police systems to the courts when the defendant is initiated in the courts.

50 The majority of defendants with a traffic offence as their principal offence have an unknown Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status recorded. This is because most traffic offences are related to fines issued by road traffic authorities. These defendants have a large impact on the proportion of unknowns in the data, therefore they have been removed from the Criminal Courts data in order to enable a focus on those defendants that are more likely to have been in contact with police and therefore would be more likely to have had their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status recorded.

51 Other offence categories that may be actioned by prosecuting agencies other than police that may also be affected by this issue are: public order; justice procedures, government security and operations; and miscellaneous offences. This should be taken into account when comparing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous data for these offence categories.


COMPARABILITY

52 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.

53 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. Refer to paragraphs 62-114 for specific state and territory issues.


COMPARISONS TO OTHER ABS DATA

Recorded crime - Offenders

54 Data relating to the number of court initiated police proceedings sourced from the Recorded Crime - Offenders collection are not strictly comparable to the number of defendants in the Criminal Courts collection. Not all court related actions initiated by police will proceed to a criminal court as police proceedings may be withdrawn or changed to other legal actions by police during the course of an investigation. Furthermore, a defendant appearing in a criminal court may be prosecuted via charges initiated by authorities other than police. There will also be lags between when the police initiate action via a court method of proceeding and when a criminal court finalises a defendants case. For more information about offenders recorded by police, refer to Recorded Crime - Offenders (cat. no. 4519.0).


COMPARISONS TO NON-ABS SOURCES

55 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

56 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.

57 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

58 For both collections a finalised defendant is defined as follows: 'A person or organisation for whom 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 as in the ABS collection data are further aggregated to create a 'merged finalised defendant'. The rule used in the ABS collection 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. The CADC counts each case separately. This method of aggregation results 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

59 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 be higher than the ABS Higher Courts data.


Duration

60 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.

61 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

62 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

63 Justicelink, a new system for data collection in the New South Wales courts, has been introduced commencing with the Higher Courts in 2008 and the Magistrates' and Children's Courts between August and December 2009. Justicelink is an integrated, multi-jurisdictional case management system.

64 Prior to Justicelink the data for the Magistrates' and Children's Courts were sourced from a number of separate systems and it was not possible to consolidate the information for a defendant according to the ABS Criminal Courts collection counting unit of a finalised defendant. The data were based on finalised appearances, that is, where charges were finalised at different court appearances in the same case for a defendant, 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 counting method resulted in slightly higher population counts than if the finalised defendant was counted. From August 2009, the data were able to be provided based on the finalised defendant.

65 Some Higher Courts data may have been lost in the migration to the new system; therefore Higher Courts counts may be understated for the 2007-08 financial year. Caution should be used when making comparisons of small data movements between 2007-08 and other years.

66 New South Wales legislation does not contain discrete offences of stalking, intimidation and harassment. As these offences cannot be disaggregated defendants charged with stalking, intimidation and harassment have been coded to ASOC 2008 offence category 0291 (Stalking). From 2008-09 this group may therefore be overstated and 0531 (Harassment and private nuisance) and 0532 (Threatening behaviour) may be understated.

67 A number of offences, previously handled by the Licensing Court, have been heard in the Magistrates’ Courts since July 2008. These include liquor and tobacco offences and betting and gambling offences and has resulted in an increase in the number of defendants for these offences from 2008-09 onwards.

68 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' in the Magistrate's Court. 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 and the number of other non-adjudicated finalisations were overstated in the Magistrate's Court. In 2006-07, 1,501 (21%) of the acquitted defendants were finalised through discharge for mental health reasons.


Victoria

69 Due to delays in the implementation of ASOC08 during 2008-09, some data was based on ASOC97. Data movements in principal offence from 2008-09 to 2009-10 may be related to improvements in coding, with 2009-10 being the first complete year of data based on ASOC08.

70 A three year trial expansion of the infringements system, commenced on 1 July 2008. This expansion allows police to issue an infringement notice for certain offences instead of charging an accused to appear at court on summons or bail. This has led to a decrease in the number of offences being dealt with in the Magistrates' and Children's Courts in 2009-10.

71 For the first time in 2006-07, data on principal offence in the Magistrates' and Children's Courts of Victoria were provided based on the 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.

72 Prior to 2008-09, deception and related offences included 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.

73 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.

74 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.

75 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

76 During 2009-10 a change was made to the recording of detention/conditional release orders in the Children's Courts database to ensure that these order types were correctly recorded as fully suspended sentences rather than partially suspended sentences. This change has resulted in an increase in fully suspended sentences in this court level for 2009-10.

77 From 2006-07, there had been a large increase in the number of vehicle registration and roadworthiness offences finalised in the Magistrates' Courts. Various initiatives resulting out of the 2006 Premier's Road Safety Summit had impacted on the number of traffic and motor vehicle offences, which included a vehicle impoundment trial in some areas of the state in July 2007 by police. Many driving offences which were previously dealt with by the issuing of a traffic offence notice were dealt with through the Magistrates' Court. This trial was extended state-wide and is now a permanent policing arrangement.

78 An undercount of finalised defendants was identified in the 2006-07 and 2005-06 Queensland data for all court levels. Data had been revised for the 2006-07 reference period (increasing Queensland's 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.

79 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 duration counts for periods up to 26 weeks and shorter duration counts for periods over 26 weeks.

80 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.

81 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.

82 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.

83 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.

84 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

85 From July 2009, Registration offences (ASOC08 1421) were able to be dealt with by way of infringement notice rather than by a summons to appear in court. This has led to a decrease in the number of these offences being dealt with in the Magistrates' and Children's Courts in 2009-10.

86 For 2008-09, a change to coding practices for method of finalisation has resulted in a reduction in the number of defendants found guilty ex-parte. Caution should be exercised in making comparisons with earlier years.

87 For 2008-09, probation orders were introduced as a sentence for the first time. These had previously been recorded as good behaviour bond/recognisance orders/obligations, where supervision is required. Where no supervision is required, the sentence continues to be recorded as good behaviour bond/recognisance orders/obligation.

88 Due to changes made to local business processes during 2008-09, quality improvements were made in the mapping of local codes to national offence categories. Most notably, these changes have contributed to an increase in ASOC08 Division 7 Unlawful entry with intent and a subsequent decrease in Division 13 Public order offences.

89 In the Children's Courts, data had been revised for 2006-07. These data were 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 impacted on the counts of defendants transferred to other court levels and the total defendants finalised for this state.

90 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.

91 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.

92 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

93 For 2008-09, a change to coding practices for sexual assault offences was made in conjunction with the implementation of ASOC 2008. These mapping changes were made to the Higher courts data but were not made to the Magistrates' or Children's courts data for 2008-09. Caution should be exercised in making comparisons between Higher courts data and Magistrates' and Children's courts data in 2008-09.

94 As a result of the implementation of ASOC08, inaccuracies were discovered in the mapping of local offence codes for stalking to the ASOC. This error was unable to be rectified for the current publication and therefore may have caused an undercount in ASOC08 division 2 stalking offences and an overcount in ASOC08 division 16 in all court levels for 2008-09.

95 From 2008-09, a change to coding practices for local codes relating to driving under the influence was made in conjunction with the implementation of ASOC 2008. These mapping changes has resulted in a notable movement of defendants from Division 4 to Division 14.

96 Data for aggravated sexual assault and non-aggravated 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.

97 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.

98 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.

99 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.

100 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.

101 Prior to 2008-09, 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 a miscoding of several local offences relating to exceeding the prescribed content of alcohol limit to ASOC Division 4 (specifically, ASOC Group 0411: driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol), rather than ASOC Division 14 (specifically group 1431: exceeding the prescribed content of alcohol limit). Other states/territories generally code drink driving offences to ASOC Group 1431, and therefore historical comparisons of this data for Western Australia and with other states and territories should be made with caution.


Tasmania

102 In February 2008 changes were made to the process for dealing with defendants charged with indictable offences. This change in criminal procedure has resulted in an increase in the number of defendants committed for trial to the Higher Criminal Courts.

103 In April 2008, the Monetary Penalties Enforcement Act 2005 came into effect. Under this Act, a person issued with an infringement notice who did nothing about the infringement was deemed to have been convicted of the offence without going to court. This legislation resulted in a significant decrease in the number of defendants appearing in the Tasmanian Magistrates' Court in 2008-09.

104 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

105 Prior to 2009-10, there was an error in the mapping for charges acquitted and withdrawn resulting in an overcount for acquittals and an undercount for charges withdrawn. This has been rectified for the 2009-10 data. Caution should be exercised when making historical comparisons. Revised data for years prior to 2009-10 will be provided in the 2010-11 issue of this publication.

106 Prior to 2008-09 fully suspended sentences were based on a flag which determined if the defendant was 'released forthwith' and did not consider whether the defendant had actually served time in custody. Consequently fully suspended sentences are overcounted and custody in a correctional institution are undercounted prior to this period. Caution should be exercised when making historical comparisons.

107 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.

108 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.

109 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

110 In 2007-08, defendants sentenced to a good behaviour bond/recognisance order were incorrectly coded to a fully suspended sentence. This has since been rectified in the 2008-09 extract. Caution should be exercised when making comparisons between 2007-08 and 2008-09.

111 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. Comparisons of 2007-08 data with other time periods therefore should not be made.

112 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'. This sentence type relates to defendants charged with federal offences.

113 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.

114 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

115 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

116 ABS publications which may be of interest include:
117 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

118 Non-ABS sources of criminal court statistics which may be of interest include:

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