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4513.0 - Criminal Courts, Australia, 2012-13 Quality Declaration 
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/03/2014   
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INTRODUCTION
DATA SOURCE
SCOPE
REFERENCE PERIOD
CLASSIFICATIONS
NATIONAL CRIMINAL COURTS DATA DICTIONARY
COUNTING METHODOLOGY
SENTENCE LENGTH AND FINE AMOUNT
ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER DEFENDANTS
COMPARABILITY
COMPARISONS TO OTHER ABS DATA
COMPARISONS TO NON-ABS SOURCES
STATE/TERRITORY EVENTS / SPECIFIC ISSUES
CONFIDENTIALITY OF TABULAR DATA
REVISIONS
RELATED PUBLICATIONS


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, case outcomes and sentences associated with those defendants.

2 Information relates to the criminal jurisdictions 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 the Government Statistician), 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, jurisdictions are requested to provide data coded according to national classifications and standards. Data are then processed and compiled by the ABS in line with these classifications and standards. For more information see Explanatory Notes paragraphs 19–56.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 restricted to counts of defendants finalised - that is, persons or organisations for whom all charges have been formally completed so that they cease 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 initiated by police and other agencies (pre-court) and/or by the courts themselves as part of the court process. Given that an objective 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. These types of pre-court diversionary programs include (but are not limited to) warnings (both informal and formal), cautions, police drug diversions and conferencing. Such pre-court diversionary 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. In the Criminal Courts data collection, 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 include 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 include 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. persons or organisations for whom all charges have been formally completed so that they cease to be an item of outstanding work) 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 defendant counts for New South Wales than if the finalised defendant was counted (see Explanatory Notes paragraph 73).

Children's Courts

14 Data include 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 (see Explanatory Notes paragraph 13).

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 community-based orders, 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 courts 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 2012 to 30 June 2013.
CLASSIFICATIONS

19 The national classifications used to collect and produce data on defendants in the Criminal Courts are:
  • Australian and New Zealand Standard Offence Classification (ANZSOC) (refer to Appendix 1);
  • Method of finalisation (Appendix 2); and
  • Sentence type (Appendix 3).

20 The classifications provide a framework for organising criminal court information for statistical purposes, and have a hierarchical structure allowing 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 and New Zealand Standard Offence Classification (ANZSOC)

21 The offence categories used for national Criminal Courts statistics in this publication are classified to the Australian and New Zealand Standard Offence Classification (ANZSOC) (cat. no. 1234.0) (see Appendix 1). The first release of this classification was the Australian Standard Offence Classification 1997 (cat. no. 1234.0) (ASOC97). In 2008, the ABS released the second edition of the Australian Standard Offence Classification (ASOC08), which reflected changes that had occurred in criminal legislation since the first edition was released, as well as satisfying emerging user requirements for offence data. The ASOC was renamed ANZSOC in July 2011 to reflect its adoption in New Zealand. ANZSOC contains the same offence details and classification as ASOC and therefore there were no impacts on the offence data. Information about the effects of changing ASOC97 to ASOC08 is presented in the Technical Note in the 2008–09 issue of this publication.

National Offence Index (NOI)

22 The National Offence Index (NOI) (cat. no. 124.0.55.001) is a ranking of all ANZSOC Groups and supplementary ANZSOC codes (ANZSOC Divisions and/or ANZSOC Subdivisions). This ranking is based on the concept of 'offence seriousness', with a ranking of 1 relating to the ANZSOC code associated with the most serious offence.

23 The first version of NOI was released in 2002. This was superseded by the second version, released in 2009 to accommodate the changes made in ASOC08. Offence information for 2010–11 onwards are based on the 2009 edition of the NOI.

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.

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 paragraphs 31–39.

Sentence Type

26 This classification is used to assign a principal sentence to a defendant who has been proven guilty. For more information see paragraphs 45–48.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) was 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. The current version 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 the 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 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 Courts in some jurisdictions 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 instances, defendants may be referred to programs where, upon completion of the program, the defendant returns for finalisation to the court that requested the transfer.

30 Where a person or organisation is a defendant in more than one case, and their cases are finalised on the same date and in the same court level, 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.

Method of finalisation

31 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.

32 A bench warrant is not considered a method of finalisation for a defendant in the Higher Courts and has been excluded from counts in this publication.

33 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

34 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

35 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

36 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

37 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

38 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

39 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.

Principal offence

40 Prior to 2007–08, principal offence was only calculated for those defendants whose charges were adjudicated. Since 2008–09, principal offence rules have been extended to include defendants whose charges were non-adjudicated or transferred to another court level. This means that principal offence data are available for all finalised defendants.

41 Where a finalised defendant has multiple charges the principal offence is determined by:
  • the type of finalisation and/or
  • the highest ranked ANZSOC using the NOI (see Explanatory Notes paragraphs 22–24).

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 ANZSOC code (see Explanatory Notes paragraph 21) associated with that charge.

44 Where a defendant has multiple charges, each with the same type of finalisation (e.g. 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 ANZSOC 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 ANZSOC 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'.

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.

46 Where a defendant has multiple sentences, the principal sentence is selected by applying the hierarchy of the Sentence Type classification (see Explanatory Notes paragraph 26).

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 imprisonment 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 Criminal Courts statistics 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.SENTENCE LENGTH AND FINE AMOUNT

Principal sentence length or fine amount

49 The principal sentence length or fine amount is the largest value associated with the principal sentence. Where there is more than one length or amount imposed for the same principal sentence type, the largest value is selected. A sentence imposed may relate to more than one offence, therefore the sentence length or amount may also refer to more than one offence. The ABS is developing methods to identify such instances as this is likely to have the effect of inflating the sentence length or amount.

50 Concurrent sentences (those which commence at the same time) or cumulative sentences (which are served one after the other) may be imposed when a defendant has committed multiple offences. Regardless of whether the sentences for a defendant are served concurrently or cumulatively, the length or amount selected is the largest value associated with the principal sentence.

51 A non-parole period is the minimum amount of time that a prisoner will be kept imprisoned before being eligible to be released on parole. Specific offences may have a legislated non-parole period, referred to as a 'minimum sentence'. The sentence length presented in this publication refers to the total period of the sentence imposed by the courts, not the 'minimum sentence'.

52 Life and indeterminate sentences are the most serious forms of imprisonment. Defendants sentenced to life imprisonment may not necessarily be imprisoned for the term of their natural life but may serve a minimum time as specified by the court or by an administrative body such as a Parole Board. Indeterminate sentences do not have a prescribed minimum term to serve and may be subject to a ministerial or other administrative decision as to the actual sentence length served. Therefore these types of imprisonment do not necessarily have an associated sentence length and defendants with this principal sentence have been excluded from custodial sentence length statistics. The number of defendants sentenced to life and indeterminate imprisonment accounted for less than 1% of all defendants sentenced to custody in a correctional institution for 2010–11 to 2012–13.

53 A defendant sentenced to imprisonment with a partially suspended term must be detained in prison for part of the specified term of the sentence, with the remainder of the term suspended on the condition that the defendant will be of good behaviour. Due to variability in the recording practices of states and territories for this sentence type, sentence length data for defendants with this principal sentence were not published for 2010–11 and 2011–12 and were excluded from custodial sentence length statistics for these years. This sentence type accounted for 9% of defendants sentenced to custody in a correctional institution in 2010–11 and 10% in 2011–12. For 2012–13 sentence length data for partially suspended sentences have been published for the first time.

54 Periodic detention is included in data for custody in a correctional institution. This sentence type is only applicable in Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory and refers to the total term over which the order is to be completed, not the actual time served in custody.

Principal proven offence

55 For sentence length data, the offence information presented relates to principal proven offence. The principal proven offence for a defendant is derived by determining the most serious sentence type (the principal sentence), and then selecting the offence type that directly resulted in this penalty. In situations where several sentences of equal seriousness are imposed, the principal proven offence derivation takes into account the length or monetary amount of the sentence, and if necessary, the seriousness of the offence, for example:
  • If a defendant is given two sentences of equal seriousness, the one with the largest sentence length or monetary amount is selected and the offence associated with this specific sentence will be designated as principal proven offence.
  • If a defendant is given two sentences of equal seriousness and the length or monetary amount of each sentence is equal, the principal proven offence is determined according to the seriousness of the offence using the NOI (see Explanatory Notes paragraphs 2224).

Principal proven offence compared with principal offence

56 The principal proven offence associated with sentence length can differ from the principal offence used to present offence data for defendant counts. Principal proven offence is determined by the principal sentence for a defendant, whereas the principal offence is determined independently of principal sentence (see Explanatory Notes paragraphs 4044). These two items will differ when the most serious offence proven guilty does not incur the most serious and largest sentence.

This diagram displays the difference between principal offence and principal proven offence.ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER DEFENDANTS

57 This publication presents data on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander defendants for each court level in New South Wales, Queensland, the Northern Territory and, for the first time for all courts, South Australia. The NCCSU has determined that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander data for defendants in other jurisdictions are not of sufficient quality for national reporting in 2012–13. Further work is underway to improve the quality of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander data for Criminal Courts defendants.

58 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.

59 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 where it is usually not possible to ask an individual their Indigenous status. These defendants have a large impact on the proportion of unknowns in the data, therefore they have been removed from Criminal Courts statistics relating to Indigenous status. This is 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.

60 Other offence categories that may be actioned by prosecuting agencies other than police that may also be affected by this issue are: public order, offences against justice, 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

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

62 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 71–108 for specific state and territory issues.COMPARISONS TO OTHER ABS DATA

Recorded Crime – Offenders

63 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 defendant's case. For more information about offenders recorded by police, refer to Recorded Crime – Offenders, Australia (cat. no. 4519.0).COMPARISONS TO NON-ABS SOURCES

64 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

65 The Report on Government Services (RoGS), commissioned by COAG, was established to provide information on the performance of Australian and state and territory government services. The Report publishes data annually on the efficiency and effectiveness of the administration of the courts, sourcing data from court authorities and departments on a financial year basis.

66 The focus of the Courts chapter in the RoGS is on the administration of the courts, including workload indicators and financial information, not on judicial decisions made in the courts. In contrast, the ABS Criminal Courts collection has a social theme, painting a picture of the characteristics of finalised 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 defendant counts.

Finalised defendant

67 For both collections the 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 active item of work to be dealt with by the courts'. However, the number of defendants will vary between the ABS and RoGS 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, their defendant records will be merged and counted as a single defendant record. The RoGS counts both lodgments and finalisations and defines a defendant as: one defendant with one or more charges and with all charges having the same date of registration. This can result in a lower count of defendants finalised in the ABS collection than in the RoGS collection.

Transfers between intermediate and supreme court levels

68 Further differences exist as a result of different counting rules for the transfer of defendants for some court levels. The RoGS 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 (as they cease to be an active unit of work for that court level) and finalised in the new court level they entered once all charges are dealt with at that court level. For the purposes of the ABS Criminal Courts collection, defendants who transfer from one Higher Court level to another are considered as finalised only once (from the level they finally left). As a result, the combined Intermediate and Supreme court finalisations data in the RoGS will be higher than the ABS Higher Courts data.

Duration and backlog

69 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 as follows:

Duration = Date of finalisation - date of initiation + one


70 The RoGS does not report on the duration of matters. Since 2004, the RoGS has reported the backlog in a court's workload, measured as a percentage of the pending caseload at 30 June which is older than nominated time standards. The formula used is as follows:
Number of pending cases at 30 June older than applicable reporting standard divided by Total pending case load at 30 June and multiplied by 100

STATE/TERRITORY EVENTS / SPECIFIC ISSUES

71 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

72 Justicelink, a new system for data collection in the New South Wales courts, was introduced for 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.

73 Prior to Justicelink, 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 the finalised defendant. The data were based on finalised appearances, i.e. 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. From August 2009, the data conform to the national counting unit of the finalised defendant.

74 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.

75 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 ANZSOC 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.

76 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.

77 The Crimes Amendment (Intensive Corrections Orders) Act 2010 came into effect on 1 October 2010. At the same time, Periodic Detentions ceased to be a sentencing option in the New South Wales Criminal Courts, with Intensive Corrections Orders effectively being the replacement for Periodic Detentions. This change has contributed to a decrease in custody in a correctional institution counts and an increase in custody in the community for 2010–11 for the Magistrates' Courts and Higher Courts data.

Victoria

78 Prior to 2008–09, deception and related offences included fare evasions processed through the Children's Courts. 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.

79 Due to delays in the implementation of ANZSOC during 2008–09, some data for that collection cycle 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 ANZSOC.

80 A three year trial expansion of the infringements system commenced on 1 July 2008. This expansion allowed police to issue an infringement notice for certain offences instead of charging an accused to appear at court on summons or bail. This led to a decrease in the number of offences being dealt with in the Magistrates' and Children's Courts in 2009–10 and 2010–11.

81 In 2009, the Victorian Government introduced new measures that resulted in a number of drunkenness and public order offences being enforced by infringement notices, instead of appearing in open court. These measures impacted on the 2010–11 data for the Magistrates' and Children's Courts, including a reduction in total finalised defendants and ANZSOC Division 13 (Public order offences).

82 For 2011–12, there was a change in the treatment of Victorian defendants finalised by transfer to a diversionary program, such as the Ropes Program. For 2011–12 only they were coded to a method of finalisation of other non-adjudicated finalisations n.e.c. As the diversionary programs require the defendants to acknowledge responsibility for the offence, for 2012–13 the majority of these defendants have been assigned a method of finalisation of proven guilty. Caution should therefore be used in comparing 2011–12 and 2012–13 data for this data item.

83 In January 2012, changes to the Sentencing Act removed the Magistrates’ Court's ability to impose the following sentences: community-based orders, intensive corrections orders, combined custody and treatment orders or home detention orders. These were replaced by a new Community Correction Order, which can contain a number of conditions. The order is mapped to community service orders, even though not all instances require unpaid community work.

Queensland

84 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 resulted in an increase in fully suspended sentences in this court level for 2009–10.

85 In February 2011, criminal infringement notices were implemented by police for some public order and traffic offences, including urinating in a public place and consumption of alcohol in a public place. These on-the-spot fines aim to deter street and traffic offences by way of an immediate consequence to the offender. This has resulted in a decrease in the overall defendant population in Queensland and decreases in ANZSOC Division 13 (Public order offences) and Division 14 (Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences) for 2010–11.

South Australia

86 For 2008–09, a change to coding practices for method of finalisation 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, where supervision is required. Where no supervision is required, the sentence continues to be recorded as good behaviour bond/recognisance orders.

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 ANZSOC Division 7 (Unlawful entry with intent) and a corresponding decrease in Division 13 (Public order offences).

89 From July 2009, registration offences (ANZSOC code 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 and 2010–11.

Western Australia

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

91 Data for aggravated sexual assault and non-aggravated sexual offences are overstated for 2007–08 due to errors in the application of codes for these offence types. Data for these detailed offence categories in 2007–08 should not be compared with previous years. The total sexual assault and related offences ASOC division was not impacted.

92 For 2008–09, a change to coding practices for sexual assault offences was made in conjunction with the implementation of ANZSOC. 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.

93 Prior to 2008–09, Western Australia had 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 (Traffic and 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 alcohol or drugs), rather than ASOC Division 14 (specifically ASOC Group 1431 Exceeding the prescribed content of alcohol limit). Other states/territories generally concord their drink driving offences to ASOC Group 1431, and therefore historical comparisons of these data for Western Australia with other states and territories should be made with caution.

94 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 ANZSOC. These mapping changes resulted in a notable movement of defendants from Division 4 to Division 14.

95 As a result of the implementation of ANZSOC, inaccuracies were discovered in the mapping of local offence codes for stalking in ASOC97. This error was unable to be rectified in the 2009–10 publication and therefore there may be an undercount in ANZSOC Division 2 and an overcount in ANZSOC Division 16 in all court levels for 2008–09.

96 For 2012–13, changes were made to the reporting procedures for compound (or complex) sentencing options in Western Australia. Compound sentences are community based orders which comprise several components: curfew, supervision (probation), community work or a programme condition. Compound sentences have been in place in Western Australia since 1995 and have previously been mapped by Western Australia to the standard ABS sentence type classification in order to conform with national standards. The ‘Intensive Supervision Orders’, both adult and juvenile, were coded to ‘Community Work’ and the less intensive ‘Community Based Orders’, adult and juvenile, were coded to ‘Probation’. In 2012–13, Western Australia provided all components of compound sentences so that a principal sentence could be derived within the ABS processing system. This change in reporting has resulted in an increase in the number of defendants with a principal sentence of community service orders and a decrease in those with probation orders. Caution should therefore be used in comparing principal sentence data with previous years.

Tasmania

97 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 in the Higher Courts.

98 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' Courts in 2008–09.

99 From 2010–11, there has been a change in the way defendants are counted as being finalised in the 'Children's/Youth Court' in Tasmania. In Tasmania a 'youth' is a person who is 10 or more years old but less than 18 years old at the time when the offence the person has committed, or is suspected of having committed, occurred (Youth Justice Act 1997). The Act includes specific provisions for a youth who is charged jointly with an adult or charged with a prescribed offence (which includes some traffic offences). These provisions are complex and may involve the youth being dealt with by another court but sentenced under the Youth Justice Act. In the past, many of these youth defendants have been included in the counts for the Magistrates' Courts, however they have been included in the Children's Courts counts from 2010–11 onwards.

Northern Territory

100 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.

101 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 was rectified for the 2009–10 data. Caution should be exercised when making historical comparisons.

102 Prior to August 2010, most traffic matters were dealt with ex-parte (i.e. without the defendant being present at the hearing) before Justice of the Peace Courts. These matters are now dealt with by Magistrates. This resulted in a significant decrease in guilty ex-parte counts for the 2010–11 Magistrates' Courts data. Caution should be used when making historical comparisons.

103 For 2011–12, there was a change in practice in the Magistrates' Courts, resulting in an increase in guilty ex-parte finalisations. In 2012, Magistrates started to hear minor matters ex-parte (instead of issuing bench warrants) if the defendant did not appear for the court hearing. Caution should be used when making historical comparisons.

104 In 2011–12, a joint project between courts and police to clear up historic outstanding warrants and summons matters resulted in an increase in the number of finalisations in 2011–12 and to a lesser extent in 2012–13. Other impacts include increases in the duration of cases; increases in the number of cases withdrawn by the prosecution; and increases in the numbers of defendants with unknown Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status. Caution should be used when making historical comparisons.

Australian Capital Territory

105 In 2007–08, defendants sentenced to a good behaviour bond/recognisance order were incorrectly coded to a fully suspended sentence. This was rectified for the 2008–09 publication. Caution should be exercised when making comparisons between 2007–08 and 2008–09.

106 For 2007–08, some road traffic offences in the Magistrates' and Children's Courts were incorrectly concorded to ASOC code 0411 (Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs) instead of ASOC code 1431 (Exceeding the prescribed content of alcohol limit). Based on historical proportions for these principal offences it is estimated that over 500 defendants in the Magistrates' Courts and over 30 defendants in the Children's Courts were miscoded. Coding for this offence was incorrect for 2007–08 data only. Comparisons of 2007–08 data with other time periods for these offences should therefore not be made.

107 From 2007–08, community service orders imposed with a fully suspended sentence are 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.

108 In 2010–11, three acting judges were appointed to assist with the backlog of cases in the Supreme Court, which resulted in a notable increase in cases finalised over the year.

CONFIDENTIALITY OF TABULAR DATA

109 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.REVISIONS

110 A number of revisions have been applied to data published for previous years. These are outlined below. The revised data are contained in time-series tables for this 2012–13 release, as well as supplementary table 60.

111 Care should be taken when using published data for 2010–11 and 2011–12 that pertain to the issues outlined in paragraphs 112–115.

112 Data for New South Wales have been revised for 2011–12. The revised data addresses the following issues:
  • correcting the understatement of the sentence length data for custody in a correctional institution;
  • correcting issues with coding of method of finalisation; and
  • minor revisions to a number of other data items.

113 For the Northern Territory, fully and partially suspended sentence data have been revised for 2010–11 and 2011–12. The revisions affected principal sentence and sentence length for a number of defendants. For the years prior to 2010–11, some principal sentences and associated sentence lengths may be over or understated.

114 Data for the Australian Capital Territory have been revised for 2011–12. Defendants charged with a particular driving offence associated with an amendment made to the Road Transport (Alcohol and Drugs) Act 1977 in May 2011 have been recoded from ANZSOC Group 0411 (Driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs) to Group 1431 (Exceeding the prescribed content of alcohol or other substance limit). The coding of these offences is now consistent with national practice.

115 Additional revisions to 2010–11 and 2011–12 data have been applied across all states and territories, with a particular impact for Victoria and South Australia. The nature of the revisions are:
  • refinement of data treatment so that a person or organisation who has offences finalised at different court levels on the same day will be counted as multiple defendants. This is consistent with the counting rules of the collection. The revision has resulted in small increases in the number of finalised defendants across most states and territories for both 2010–11 and 2011–12.
  • amendment of the treatment of dual sentencing for Victoria and South Australia for 2010–11 (i.e. when a defendant receives a sentence of custody in the community, or fully or partially suspended sentence along with an associated imprisonment sentence). This has resulted in minor changes across sentence type for these two states.
  • an update of Victorian data for 2010–11 as a result of issues identified during processing of the sentence length component of the data. These changes have now been incorporated into the main Criminal Courts data.
RELATED PUBLICATIONS

ABS publications

116 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

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

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