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19 The classifications provide a framework for classifying criminal court information for statistical purposes, promoting data that are compiled on a consistent basis across states and territories. The classifications have a hierarchical structure and therefore allow for different levels of detail to be recorded depending on the level of detail in the source information. Associated with each classification are coding rules which ensure that the counting of information is consistent across states and territories.
Australian Standard Offence Classification (ASOC)
20 The offence categories used for 2008-09 federal defendants statistics in this publication are classified to the Australian Standard Offence Classification (ASOC), 2008 (Second edition) (cat. no. 1234.0). ASOC provides a national framework for classifying offences for statistical purposes, and was first released in 1997. In 2008 the ABS released the second edition of ASOC, which reflects changes that have occurred in criminal legislation since the first edition was released, as well as satisfying emerging user requirements for offence data.
National Offence Index (NOI)
21 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.
22 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. Principal federal offence information for 2008-09 are based on NOI09 in this publication.
23 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 federal 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
24 This classification categorises how an offence and defendant has been finalised by a court. Main categories include adjudications, non-adjudications and transfers. For more information see Appendix 1 and paragraph 30.
25 This classification is used to assign a sentence to offences that are proven guilty. It is also used to determine a principal sentence to a defendant who has been proven guilty. For more information see Appendix 3 and paragraphs 42-45.
Federal Offence Group
26 The Federal Offence Group classifies the various Commonwealth Acts and Sections into broad categories or themes by the type of legislation. For more information see Appendix 4.
27 The principal counting unit for the federal defendants 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 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.
28 This counting unit is based on the principal counting unit in the Criminal Courts collection. However, in the Criminal Courts collection, a further step is taken when a defendant has more than one case in the reference period. When this occurs a defendant is created as follows:
29 As the information provided for the federal defendants collection does not allow for this final merging step to be undertaken, the defendant counts may be higher than the counts for federal defendants in the Criminal Courts collection.
Method of finalisation
30 Method of finalisation describes how a criminal charge is concluded by a criminal court level. For the purposes of the federal defendants collection, one method of finalisation is applied to each offence and each defendant within the Higher, Magistrates' and Children's Courts.
Transfer between Higher Court levels
31 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
32 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
33 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).
34 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:
35 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:
36 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:
Principal federal offence
37 Where a finalised defendant has multiple charges the principal federal offence is determined by:
38 The type of finalisation is considered in the following order:
39 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 federal offence is the relevant ASOC code (refer to paragraph 20) associated with that charge.
40 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 federal offence. The principal federal 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 federal offence is coded to 'not able to be determined'. For more information about the NOI refer to paragraphs 21-23.
41 There is presently no similar hierarchy for classification of the detailed Act and Section level information from which the federal offence types are derived. As such, whilst defendant level information in this publication can be presented broken down by ASOC, there is no means of representing defendants by a single federal category type. Therefore, data presented by federal offence group are only available at the offence level.
42 Federal defendants who are proven guilty have sentence information reported against them at the offence level. This enables the presentation of two views of sentencing data: the sentence for an offence and the principal sentence for the defendant.
43 A defendant can receive a single sentence for a single offence proven guilty, a single sentence for multiple offences proven guilty, multiple sentences for multiple offences proven guilty and/or multiple sentences assigned to the one offence proven guilty. Where a defendant has multiple sentences, the principal sentence is selected by applying the hierarchy of the Sentence Type Classification (see Appendix 3). This is usually, though not necessarily, the sentence associated with the principal federal offence.
44 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.
45 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 this collection 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.
46 The secondary counting unit for the federal defendants collection is the offence. Rather than apply an order of precedence to the offences for each defendant case to enable the defendant to be represented by one principal federal offence (as in Chapter 2), the federal defendants collection allows for the counting of all offences finalised. These counts are presented in Chapter 3. The count of offences will be the same or higher than the count for defendants.
47 The third counting unit for the federal defendants collection is offence sentences. This is an extension of the offence counting unit for offences that are proven guilty. A proven guilty offence may have more than one sentence type. When this occurs the offence will be counted for each sentence type handed down.
STATE / TERRITORY SPECIFIC ISSUES
48 Both Victoria and the ACT have a high proportion of defendants with a principal federal offence of traffic offences: 27% for Vic. and 36% for the ACT. In Vic. this is due to the way parking offences at Tullamarine airport are handled - these are charged under the Aviation Transport Security Regulations 2005 rather than under state legislation. In the ACT this is due to parking offences charged under the Australian National University Parking and Traffic Statute 2007.
49 The majority of records in the NT data for the Magistrates' and Children's Courts related to the Australian Road Rules. The NT identify offences under this legislation as federal whereas the other jurisdictions apply this through their state legislation. The Australian Road Rules are not Commonwealth legislation in their own right, and exist as guidelines for the enacting of State and Territory legislation only. To ensure national comparability these offences have been deemed out of scope of the federal defendants collection. In the Criminal Courts collection federal defendants are identified by a flag only (no detail of the particular legislation) and therefore records associated with the Australian Road Rules cannot be separately identified and excluded. The counts of federal defendants for the NT for the Criminal Courts collection will therefore be much higher than the counts in the federal defendants collection.
COMPARISONS TO OTHER ABS DATA
Criminal Courts Collection
50 Federal defendants are a subset of all criminal courts defendants. Information relating to all defendants finalised in the criminal courts is available in the publication Criminal Courts, Australia (cat. no. 4513.0). However, as a federal defendant may also be charged with state or territory offences, the difference between all finalised defendants in the criminal courts and finalised federal defendants does not equal the count of defendants charged with state or territory offences.
COMPARISONS TO NON-ABS SOURCES
51 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.
CONFIDENTIALITY OF TABULAR DATA
52 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.
53 ABS publications which may be of interest include:
Australian Standard Offence Classification (cat. no. 1234.0) - irregular
Corrective Services, Australia (cat. no. 4512.0) - issued quarterly
Crime Victimisation, Australia (cat. no. 4530.0) - released 18 February 2010
Crime and Safety, New South Wales (cat. no. 4509.1) - irregular
Criminal Courts, Australia (cat. no. 4513.0) - issued annually
General Social Survey: Summary Results, Australia (cat. no. 4159.0) - irregular
Information Paper: Measuring Crime Victimisation, Australia: The Impact of Different Collection Methodologies (cat. no. 4522.0.55.001) - single issue
Information Paper: National Information Development Plan for Crime and Justice Statistics 2005 (cat. no. 4520.0) - single issue
Measures of Australia's Progress (cat. no. 1370.0) - released 31 May 2006
Measuring Well-being: Frameworks for Australian Social Statistics (cat. no. 4160.0) - irregular
National Criminal Courts Data Dictionary (cat. no. 4527.0) - released 1 February 2007
Personal Safety Survey, Australia (cat. no. 4906.0) - released 21 August 2006
Prisoners in Australia (cat. no. 4517.0) - issued annually
Recorded Crime - Offenders, Australia (cat. no. 4519.0) - issued annually
Recorded Crime - Victims, Australia (cat. no. 4510.0) - issued annually
Year Book Australia (cat. no. 1301.0) - irregular
54 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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
55 Non-ABS sources of criminal court statistics which may be of interest include:
Australian Institute of Criminology, List of Publications <http://www.aic.gov.au>
Chief Justice of Western Australia, Annual Review
Children's Court, Queensland, Annual Report
Children's Court of Victoria, Annual Report
County Court of Victoria, Annual Report
Courts Administration Authority, South Australia, Annual Report
Crime Research Centre, University of Western Australia, Crime and Justice Statistics for Western Australia
Department of Justice, Northern Territory, Annual Report
Department of Justice, Victoria, Annual Report
Department of the Attorney General, Western Australia, Annual Report
Department of Justice and Attorney-General, Queensland, Annual Report
Department of Justice, Tasmania, Department of Justice Annual Report
Director of Public Prosecutions, Annual Report, all State, Territory and Commonwealth Offices of the Director of Public Prosecutions
District Court of Queensland, Annual Report
District Court of Western Australia, Annual Report
Local Court of New South Wales, Annual Review
Magistrates' Court of Tasmania, Annual Report
Magistrates' Court, Queensland, Annual Report
Magistrates' Court of Victoria, Annual Report
NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, New South Wales Criminal Courts Statistics
Office of Crime Statistics and Research, South Australia, Crime and Justice in South Australia: Adult Courts and Corrections
Office of Crime Statistics and Research, South Australia, Crime and Justice in South Australia: Juvenile Justice
Office of Economic and Statistical Research, Crime and Justice Statistics Queensland
Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision, Report on Government Services
Supreme Court of Queensland, Annual Report
Supreme Court of Victoria, Annual Report
Supreme Court of Tasmania, Annual Report
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