Australian Bureau of Statistics
4515.0 - Federal Defendants, Australia, 2012-13 Quality Declaration
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 05/06/2014
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4 National 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 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 18–27.
6 The scope of the statistics in this publication includes all defendants with at least one Commonwealth legislative offence that has 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, defendant 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.
9 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.
10 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.
12 Data include defendants finalised in the original jurisdiction of the Children's Criminal Courts. Prior to 2009–10, data for New South Wales Children's Courts were based on 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.
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 community-based orders, 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 will be included in the mainstream courts data as transfers.
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 or territory enacting legislation are excluded from the scope of the Federal Defendants collection.
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 2012 to 30 June 2013.
18 The national classifications used to collect and produce data on federal defendants are:
Australian and New Zealand Standard Offence Classification (ANZSOC)
20 The offence categories used for Federal Defendants statistics in this publication are classified to the Australian and New Zealand Standard Offence Classification (ANZSOC) (cat. no. 1234.0). ANZSOC provides a national framework for classifying offences for statistical purposes. The first release of this classification was 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.
National Offence Index (NOI)
21 The National Offence Index (NOI) 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 seriousness of offence, with a ranking of 1 relating to the ANZSOC code containing the most serious offence.
22 The NOI was revised in 2009 to accommodate the changes made in ASOC08 and supersedes the first version of NOI, which was released in 2002. Principal federal offence information in this publication are based on the 2009 edition of the NOI.
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 2 and paragraphs 30–36.
25 This classification is used to assign a sentence to offences that are proven guilty. It is also used to determine a principal sentence for a defendant who has been proven guilty. For more information see Appendix 3 and paragraphs 42–45.
Federal Offence Groups
26 This publication presents an alternative set of groups for offence data. The federal offence groups classify the various Commonwealth Acts and Sections into broad categories or themes. More information is provided in Appendix 4.
27 Caution should be used when comparing federal offence groups data with previous years. In 2011–12, a major revision of the federal offence groups was undertaken. The number of categories was expanded, and there was extensive re-mapping of offences to the new categories. Details of the changes that were made are provided in Appendix 4 in the 2011–12 issue of this publication. For 2012–13, further refinements were made, as detailed below, and data for 2011–12 have been revised accordingly:
28 The principal counting unit for the Federal Defendants 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 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.
29 Prior to 2010–11, defendants were counted for each case they had finalised during the reference period, irrespective of whether multiple cases were finalised on the same day at the same hearing. From 2010–11, if the defendant has more than one case which is finalised on the same day and at the same hearing, this is counted as one defendant case, irrespective of the dates of initiation. This is called merging defendant records. This counting rule is consistent with the Criminal Courts collection.
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.
Transfers 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).
Transfers 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.
Transfers between Children's Courts and Magistrates' or Higher Court levels
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:
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 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 being 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 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 groups are derived. As such, whilst defendant level information in this publication can be presented by ANZSOC, it is not possible to represent defendants by a single federal offence group. Data presented by federal offence groups are therefore 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 or 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 federal 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, the Federal Defendants collection allows for the counting of all federal offences finalised. Note that some federal offences may be counted more than once for a proven guilty offence if more than one sentence is handed down. Therefore the count of federal offences may be overstated. These counts are presented in Tables 1, 8, 9, 12, 13 and 14 in the data cubes.
47 The third counting unit for the Federal Defendants collection is federal offence sentences. This is an extension of the federal offence counting unit for federal 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. These counts are presented in Table 15 in the data cubes.
48 A number of revisions have been applied to data published for previous years. These are outlined below. The revised data are contained in time comparable tables for this 2012–13 release. Care should be taken when using published data for 2010–11 and 2011–12 that pertain to the issues outlined in paragraphs 49–52.
49 Data for New South Wales have been revised for 2011–12. The revised data addresses issues with method of finalisation coding and minor revisions to a number of other data items.
50 For the Northern Territory, two revisions have been made:
52 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:
54 Tasmanian data were not available for the 2008–09 and 2009–10 Federal Defendant collections. The 2010–11 Federal Defendant collection included data for Tasmanian Magistrates' and Children's Courts only. From 2011–12, data for all court levels are included for Tasmania.
55 For other state and territory specific issues that have impacted on the Criminal Courts collection more generally, refer to paragraphs 71–108 of the Explanatory Notes of the publication Criminal Courts, Australia (cat. no. 4513.0).
Criminal Courts collection
56 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.
57 Due to differing scope and counting rules the data in this publication may not be comparable to data published in other national and state and territory publications.
58 Table cells containing small values have been randomly adjusted to avoid releasing confidential information. Due to this randomisation process, totals may vary slightly across and within tables.
59 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. For a listing of ABS publications relating to crime and justice statistics, refer to the Related Information tab.
60 Non-ABS sources of criminal court statistics which may be of interest include:
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This page last updated 4 June 2014