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4515.0 - Federal Defendants, Selected States and Territories, 2008-09  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/05/2010  First Issue
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EXPLANATORY NOTES


INTRODUCTION

1 This publication presents information on the characteristics of federal 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 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).


DATA SOURCE

4 These statistics are derived from data about each federal 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). Data for Tasmania are excluded from this publication.

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 with at least one charge against a Commonwealth legislation who have been finalised in the Higher, Magistrates' or Children's Courts. Defendants with charges against both Commonwealth legislation and State and Territory legislation are still within scope of the collection, however only federal offences are counted for the purposes of this publication.

7 The federal defendants 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 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 federal defendants 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

9 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

10 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.

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


Children's Courts

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

13 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

14 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.

15 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, etc.

16 The Australian Road Rules are maintained by the National Transport Commission but only apply if they are adopted in each state and territory through local legislation. In the Northern Territory, offences against the Australian Road Rules are identified as federal offences. To ensure consistency across all states and territories, the Australian Road Rules, and their state/territory enacting legislation, were excluded from the scope of the federal defendants collection.


REFERENCE PERIOD

17 The statistics in this collection relate to federal defendants who had criminal cases finalised within the Higher, Magistrates' and Children's Courts during the reference period 1 July 2008 to 30 June 2009.


CLASSIFICATIONS

18 The national classifications used to collect and produce data on federal defendants are:

  • Method of finalisation (Appendix 1)
  • Australian Standard Offence Classification (ASOC) 2008 (Appendix 2) and
  • Sentence type (Appendix 3).

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.


Sentence Type

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.


COUNTING METHODOLOGY

Finalised defendant

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:
      Merging Defendant Records - If the Defendant has more than one case which is finalised on the same day and at the same hearing, this should be counted as one defendant case, irrespective of the dates of initiation.

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).

Higher Courts

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:
  • 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

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:
  • 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

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:
  • 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 federal offence

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

38 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.

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.

Principal sentence

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.


Offence

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.


RELATED PUBLICATIONS

ABS publications

53 ABS publications which may be of interest include:
      Australian Social Trends (cat. no. 4102.0) - issued quarterly
      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 <crime.justice@abs.gov.au>.


Non-ABS publications

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


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